Meat lovers have been told all to often that regularly eating large quantities of red or processed meats ups your cancer risk factor. This is why so many of us are trying to limit the amount of red meat we take in.
But if you love your steaks, is your only option banning them from your diet forever? Apparently not…
New research appearing in New Scientist magazine suggests that marinating steak in red wine or beer might cut down the number of cancer causing agents produced when these meats are grilled or fried.
The high temperatures associated with frying or grilling are known to change the natural sugars and amino acids in red meats into chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HAs for short).
Earlier work has shown that a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic cut HA levels in chicken by as much as 90%.
The Portuguese team from the University of Porto conducted this latest study (also published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry) to look at the effectiveness of an alcohol-based marinade. Both beer and red wine were used in the research.
The researchers found that after 6 hours marinating in either beer or wine, two types of HAs were decreased by up to 90%, compared to unmarinated steaks.
Beer worked better on a third type of HA, and cut levels of the substance in just four hours. Wine took 6 hours to achieve this same effect.
The team suspects that the key could be water-retaining sugars that are in the alcohol marinade. These sugars, more abundant in beer than wine, keep water soluble molecules in the steak from moving to the surface where the high heat converts them into HA’s.
In case you’re wondering, the testers preferred the beer marinated steak for smell, taste and overall appearance.
Scientists have actually identified 17 different HAs that come from the high temperature (350ºF or higher) cooking of meats.
Of the four things that influence HA formation, (type of food, cooking method, temperature and time), temperature is most important.
Other sources of protein (milk, eggs, tofu and organ meats) have very little or no HA naturally or when cooked.
Meats that were microwaved for 2 minutes before being cooked had a 90% decrease in HA content. Pouring off any liquid that comes during microwaving causes the final concentration of HA to be reduced.
The way you like your meat cooked is also related to cancer risk.
Another study showed a link between eating cooked meats and stomach cancer, but those who liked meat medium well or well done were three times more likely to have stomach cancer as those who preferred rare or medium rare beef.
Cancers of the bowel, pancreatic and breast cancer have also been associated with red meat.
Of course cancer experts warn against thinking marinades provide protection from the cancer risk in red meat.
Eating less of these meats overall is a good way to reduce your cancer risk factor, as well as being sure that your diet also contains plenty of fruits, veggies and fiber while limiting the amount of red meat and alcohol you take in.