The Day Boo Radley Came to a Cookout and Cancer Left


Alright, well I alluded to it a few posts ago: Swim Suit Season is either upon us again, or still, depending on where you live.

No, this is not another “Beach Ready Abs in 7 days!” gimmicky article.

Which, by the way, can I just say I despise those articles? If it were truly possible to get abs in 7 days without depriving yourself of the water you need to stay hydrated and the fibrous foods you need to stay…regular – there would be no obesity epidemic. It would be a small, scale contagion at most.

Now, I’m not saying that to take the wind out of your proverbial beach-ready sails, I’m saying it because it’s true.

And far too often we get our hopes up for something we truly want [who doesn’t want abs in 7 days??] and when we are made to believe it is attainable… and then we fail… it is devastating and further endorses the notion that being healthy is just too hard. And we must not be very good at it.

Oh- contraire.

Like your favorite pizza made with high-quality ingredients, we can only be expected to be as “good” at something as the tools with which we have to work with. The tools those beauty mags “equip” you with for getting abs in 7 days may be grounded in partial truths [i.e. fibrous foods such as kale and beans can indeed make you bloat – but normally only if you restrict water intake, which that article probably suggests too – wouldn’t want any excess water retention that’s so unsexy…; it is also true that salt can make you bloat… But salt is needed in small amounts along with water to keep you hydrated at a cellular level] so all in all – – Like the teenage boys those hormone charged magazines seem to be written by, they offer too many mixed, unfounded messages, making for a poor health competency gauge.

Shew. I feel better getting that off my chest.

Yes, it was arguably cruel for me to use pizza as a metaphor in that example.

Hopefully you aren’t too upset with me, as delicious food was sort of the focal point of the rest of this article…

Time to chat about that uninvited guest at your backyard cookout.



The neighbor on the corner house that reminds you of Boo Radley?

No, no, no.

Well, wait, technically: yes, yes, and… maybe?

Those can all put on a damper on things. Unless it really is Boo Radley. I’ve always wanted a fictional character at my cookout. Great conversation piece, no?

Ok, ok, back to center: For the purposes of this article, the answer we were looking for was: Carcinogens.

I’m sure you’ve heard the schtick before: Grilling foods causes cancer!!!

But wait, fried foods cause fatness.

Microwave foods cause radiation.

Boiled foods cause nutrient depletion

Raw foods cause salmonella, E. Coli, Mad Cow, and tapeworm [for good measure]**

SO… what are we to do?

Time to clarify this and sort through the scare tactics for some facts.

The facts are these:

  • Grilles can get up to 640 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cooking meat at high temperatures above 500 degree Fahrenheit has been shown to generate Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs] and Heterocyclic Amines [HCA]
  • PAHs and HCA have been shown to causes cancer in laboratory rats as well linked to stomach and colon/rectal cancers in humans across longitudinal studies.
  • Meat and poultry produce the highest levels of PAH/HCA because they have the highest levels of amino acids and creatine [building blocks for protein]; Seafood has lower levels, and vegetable by products [i.e. veggie burgers] and vegetables themselves [i.e. squash, asparagus, tomatoes] have little to no PAH/HCA because the amino and creatine precursors aren’t as abundant.
  • Additionally, Meat and Poultry have the highest levels of PAH/HCA because, even at their leanest, they have a higher fat content then their vegetable counterparts. The fat content comes into play because whenever fat drips on a heating element [think flames and charcoal], the PAH/HCA are formed on contact and then waft back up in the smoke and can land on the food where they are cooked into those deliciously, crispy charred pieces. SO sad. But so true.
  • From the looks of the research, you would have to eat a considerable amount of charred food and abandon most anti-oxidant foods [think berries, tea, coffee, green veggies] to wind up with cancer that could be solely attributed to our little PAH/HCA friends. However, don’t tempt fate, at least not when preventative measures are so simple.

Here are a few simple preparatory steps you can take to reduce your chances of consuming even low levels of carcinogens at your next cook out:

Pick a lean meat to begin with and trim extra fat [based on a 6oz serving]

i.      Top Sirloin Steak [240 calories, 30 g protein, 12 g fat]

top sirloin

ii.      London Broil [165 calories, 36 g protein, 5g fat]

london broil

iii.      96% Lean Ground Beef [195 calories, 33 g protein, 7 g fat]

96 lean ground

iv.      Pork Tenderloin [185 calories, 36 g protein, 4 g fat]


v.      Chicken Breast [187 calories, 40 g protein, 2 g fat]


vi.      Turkey Cutlets [180 calories, 42 g protein, 1 g fat]

turkey cutlets

Take noteprocessed meats like bratwurst, sausages, and hot dogs that have casings and nitrites are linked to carcinogens on their own accord, even without grilling, so eat those sparingly and opt for kosher, non-nitrite options when you can

Marinate your meat

Use dark beer – [ don’t argue] recent studies have shown that the darker the beer, the greater the power to diffuse HCA/PAH. Sorry Miller Light won’t cut it. Just one more reason to love craft beer. Consider a Porter or Stout

Use spices – a combination of cloves, rosemary, oregano, and thyme has been shown to protect the fat content from oxidizing and thus reducing carcinogens

Pre-cook meat in microwave to reduce open flame exposure time

Pretty self explanatory. Cook to about 85 % of cooked-ness [if you will]. This is especially a good idea if you have not thawed out the meat – – frozen meat directly on the grille is one of the best way to seal in HCA/PAH because the internal temperature is never consistent with the outer

Try a gas grille

Cooks at a lower temperature than charcoal and is easier to control the temperature

If you do use Charcoal, opt for hardwood charcoal, as it burns at lower temperatures than mesquite or other soft woods

Drain off the juices [which contain highest levels of HCA]

Worried your meat will be uber-dry if you lose the juice? Try the “tenting method” : place your meat on a cutting board or plate and drape aluminum foil loosely over the top; do NOT wrap it to the plate; leave for 5 mins; the steam will help force the redistribution of juices already inside the meat and help keep the whole piece moist

Lastly, Clean your grille after each use!


Check back later this week when I post some of my favorite grilled vegetable recipes [think Garlic Truffle Corn-on-the-Cob and Pesto Zucchini] and share which beers go best with which foods.


Until next time,

Live  Well.


Some of you may be wondering why, as a fitness guru, I am espousing these seemingly “rich” foods. It’s less devious than you might imagine. All things in moderation. When you eat quality food, your body thanks you. You feel satisfied because your body is getting the nutrients it needs. Steer clear of any summer diet that has you skipping meals, substituting a bunch of sugar-free, fat-free options, or eating just a few of the same items over and over.



** I know my True Raw Food Diet and Vegans out there are cheering right now.

“Ha-ha!”, they will say. “We don’t have to worry about any of that!”

At least scan the article and be an ambassador for all your non-raw friends.




2 thoughts on “The Day Boo Radley Came to a Cookout and Cancer Left

  1. Sunny@PositivelyStrong says:

    I absolutely love this post. I’m sending this on to my grill-loving hubby and it’s great that you provided suggestions for reducing the consumption of carcinogens, cause you know that carnivores like us won’t stop using that bbq. You’re right, everything in moderation, even moderation 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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