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Cook With Herbal Rubs — and Prevent Cancer

Add some healthy sizzle to your steaks by letting them stand for an hour in an herb-flavored marinade or rub before they go on the grill. Antioxidant-rich herbs from the mint family dramatically reduce cancer-causing compounds that form on the surface of meat, fish or poultry cooked at high temperatures.

All culinary members of the mint family—including rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano and basil—work their magic either alone or in combination to neutralize heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Both homemade and store-bought marinade perform equally well.

“This is a practical way of cutting down on carcinogenic compounds, and it tastes great, too,” says J. Scott Smith, a professor of food chemistry at Kansas State University who has conducted research on HCAs for several years.

Studies have shown that meat cooked below 352 degrees and for under four minutes had low levels of HCAs. The higher the temperature and the longer the cooking time, the higher the level of carcinogens.

Smith’s latest study, published in the Journal of Food Science in the fall of 2008, complements his earlier work showing that rosemary extract rubbed onto hamburger patties also reduces HCAs.

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