That substance that forms on meats cooked at high temperatures (such as from
grilling, frying, or broiling meat) includes compounds that researchers say are
"reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." The compounds are known as
HCAs, or heterocyclic amines. Some research has shown that eating more HCAs
increases your risk for several cancers, including colorectal, stomach, lung,
pancreas, breast, and prostate cancers.
But researchers at Kansas State University and The Food Science Institute
believe marinades may hold the key to healthier grilled meats.
Here's how their study was carried out.
Researchers marinated eye of round steaks for an hour in three different
store-bought marinades. The meat was coated on all sides and turned several
times. Steaks were then grilled at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for five minutes on
They also tested steaks with no marinade and those with marinade made only
with water, vinegar, and soybean oil.
Grilling Marinated Meat
When the meat was tested for total HCAs, the steak cooked in the Caribbean
marinade mixture had an 88% reduction in the "bad" compounds.
Those cooked in the herb marinade had a more than 72% drop in compounds. The
Southwest marinade meats had a 57% reduction in compounds.
What did the three store-bought marinades have in common?
They all contained two or more spices from the mint family, which are rich
in antioxidants, the researchers note.
"Commercial marinades offer spices and herbs, which have antioxidants that
help decrease the HCAs formed during grilling," according to a prepared
statement from study lead researcher J.S. Smith, PhD. "The results from our
study have a direct application since more consumers are interested in
Although the study didn't include recipes, it did include
The Caribbean marinade contained thyme, red and black pepper, allspice,
rosemary, and chives.
The Southwest marinade was made with paprika, red pepper, oregano, black
pepper, garlic, and onion.
And the herb marinade was prepared with oregano, basil, onion, jalapeno,
parsley, and red pepper.
All of the store-bought tested marinades also were made with sugar and
Other research looking at the possible beneficial affects of marinating
before grilling have been mixed, the researchers say.
The new results are published in the Journal of Food Science.