The Five Worst Foods to Grill

fiveWe'll be having the standard American barbeque this weekend to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday, vegan-style that is. Jane's been working on the menu; while doing so, she came across this information on the dangers of grilling. None of this is new, but it's certainly worth repeating. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine compiled a list of the five worst foods to grill. What makes these foods so bad, is that when grilled, they produce something called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are carcinogenic compounds created during the cooking of animal products.

So what are these five foods to avoid on Memorial Day weekend? Nothing that we vegans will concern ourselves with, but we all have friends and/or family members who still consume these foods and should be warned of the dangers...

  1. Chicken breast, skinless, boneless, grilled, well done -- 14,300 ng/100g
  2. Steak, grilled, well done -- 810 ng/100g
  3. Pork, barbecued -- 470 ng/100g
  4. Salmon, grilled with skin --166 ng/100g
  5. Hamburger, grilled, well done --130 ng/100g

The measurements are HCAs per 100 gram portion. 100 grams is aproximately 3.5 ounces

You'll be happy to learn that vegetarian foods result in extremely low to no HCAs being formed during the grilling process. So pass the vegan burgers, and hold the cancer.


  1. I think that’s so interesting. I’ve heard about this elsewhere. It sure is a little scary. Omnis have to cook their meat hot enough and long enough to kill the bacteria present inside it, yet the longer and hotter they cook it, the more likely it will produce these carcinogens. Yuck.

  2. Wow! I wouldn’t have guessed chicken breast as the worst. Amazing.

    Here’s what we’re grilling this weekend:

    – Vegan FieldRoast Mexican Sausages
    – Dixie Diner Turkey (Not) Burgers
    – Garlic/Balsamic Eggplant (leftovers used to make the best babaganoush)
    – Tofu steaks marinated with homemade smoky sauce and my personal recipe Carolina BBQ sauce
    Portobella mushrooms stuffed with garlic, basil and rosemary
    Zuchinni, yellow squash, sweet onions, red bell pepper, carrots in lemon-thyme olive oil


  4. Thanks Joe, I reiterate your ‘GO SCREW’ to the vegans. Humans have eaten meat and animal products for more than a millenia. Stop feeling bad for organisims that are farther down on the food chain.. Get over it. people eat cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, cute li’l baby seals… its all food. Or a stylish hat/coat ensamble in the case of the baby seal.

  5. Joe – charles….. so impressed that you both manage to type with the clubs in your hands!

    “people eat cows, chickens….. “it’s all food”. We are closing in on 7 billion people – 90% of our forests are gone, ice caps are melting, fossil fuels and water are becoming scarce – antibiotics are failing, oceans are 75% depleated, avian flu, samonella, e-coli is rampant and you two want to base your argument on what humans have done for more than a millenia? Do you not understand the nature of change?

    Man adapts – improves and revises if conditions present danger. “it’s all food”. Animal agriculture is not sustainable, nor is it moral.

    For health & heart…. Go VEGAN!

  6. Wow, you step away from your blog for a day and a half, and look what happens.

    Okay, responding to comments in order:

    Hi Bea, Alex, Elaine – Yes we were surprised too and wanted to make sure our family and friends who eat meat were apprised of the dangers here. We had found the “perfect” marinade for chicken thighs last year, and had eaten them far more often than we used to because of that. And Jane and I often fought over when the meat was ready (she preferred it well cooked because of the salmonella issues…) Anyway, reading that just reinforced our feeling that this is the right “diet” for us.

    Jason, Your menu sounds wonderful. We haven’t seen the Dixie Diner faux meats before. How do they compare with the other brands?

  7. To “Joe” & Charles,

    First and foremost, if you would like to have a dialog then you are welcome to spend time on our blog. If you are going to be rude, please take your selves and your comments elsewhere. No one is forcing you to read this blog, nor are we trying to force you to stop eating meat. We are talking about our vegan journey, and reporting our findings along the way.

    Obviously you haven’t bothered to spend any time on this blog or you’d see that we are all about tolerance. If you choose to eat meat, that is your prerogative. We came late to this vegan game (we’re both in our 40s); we are the last people to condemn what other people eat. We do, however, suggest learning a little bit about how your meat comes to your plate. It might change your minds a bit. It certainly changed ours!

    “Joe” – yes life causes cancer. Drinking water from plastic bottles can cause cancer. We did not make up the information we reported here. Our reference is from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The science proves that well-done grilled chicken is carcinogenic. Do with that information what you will.

    Yes, life causes cancer. But it’s been well documented that a vegan diet correlates to a much lower incidence of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

    Charles, If I were in a situation where I had no choice but to eat meat or perish, I would certainly eat the meat. But in this society, at this time, there is no “need” to eat meat. Since: 1) we can survive without it; 2) most of the meat that is eaten is treated in such an inhumane manner – and these are sentient creatures; and 3) the environment is being very negatively impacted by concentrated animal feeding operations – we choose not to eat meat.

    We’re not demanding that you stop eating meat, but we believe that if most people were educated about these issues, then they would, at the least, cut down their meat consumption.

    If you are interested in learning a bit more about these issues, see our post Eat Green, Literally and Figuratively. There are a few links there to additional materials worth reading, especially a document entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow compiled by the United Nations which discusses, in detail, why a meat-based diet is bad for the planet.

  8. I think I should appologize – my response of “poetic justice” may have been inappropriate enough to put Joe and Charles on the defensive. I didn’t intend to re-act so crudely myself except the “Screw You” comment needed an equally crass reply.

    Lane, thanks for directing them to Livestock’s Long Shadow to support my response on “un-sustainable animal agriculture.

  9. Hi Bea,
    I wouldn’t worry about it. There are a few people out there who seem to feel very threatened by the mere mention of the word vegan.

    I believe ignorance and intolerance are two the largest societal issues. If we could all be considerate of the beings around us… (getting off soapbox now).

    As for your reaction to Joe and Charles – 1) I wouldn’t classify it as “crude” – and – 2) I’m sure neither of them will bother returning for a real dialog around their issues anyway.

  10. Hi Lane – you’re right – I don’t think either were looking for enlightenment when they wandered through with their abrasiveness. Thanks for letting me off the “reactionary” hook on this one.

    Now, I hope everyone today has a fine time grilling their portabellos and other yummy veggies – It was a fine article – and good of you to post.

  11. hi gang, just read kelly frestons new book, Quantam Wellness and I am sold. i have been semi-vegitarian for the past 30 years, (i was 14). since reading this book, i am sure that vegan is for me. i would recomend the book. thanks

  12. Hi Leslie,
    Welcome to the fold, and good luck on your vegan journey.
    Jane has the book on reserve at the library. I think we’ll get it this weekend.

  13. Hi Wellness,
    Simply click on the text that reads “Get Bits via RSS Feed” at the top of the screen, to the left of the orange RSS Feed icon (or click on the icon in your address line, if your browser shows that). Copy the address line. Most readers have a “subscribe” button or box. You would need to paste the copied address line here.

  14. Hi,

    I have been born Vegetarian (please note not Vegan) – when I say born vegetarian born in a Hindu family animal products of any kind (with the exception of cow milk) was not used in any kind of a cooking. However as a note to all the friends was that I have discovered among friends and relatives (my father-in-law passed away about 4 years ago) heart ailments and other related ailments due to high fat consumption, one reason in particular is clarified butter or what is famously called “ghee”.

    On the alternate my father who is 79 years old and my grandmother 91 years old did not consume ghee like others and have a very low cholesterol level and are fairly healthy and are doing well. They also constantly consumed vegetables that were grown in our own garden, luckily we were able to afford to have a garden of our won.

    I and my family wife and daughter follow our regimen of vegetarianism and of course I consume buttermilk made out of home made yogurt (which I really like) but avoid any other animal products including cheese.

    I apologize for ranting but the point here is to totally agree with the merits of Vegitarianism and Vegan dieting as a good clean and healthy way of living and also make our planet and food sources sustainable.

    In Indian cooking, there are many vegetarian dishes that are very mild (please dont think of curry) and can be modified slightly to your tastes and we will be willing to share them. We are also going to try the dishes (all of them sound yummy!!!) that has been mentioned here.

    Keep up the good work and I believe we should ignore the rantings of the so-called “carnivores”.


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