There are those who would suggest you take caution before you bite into that crispy brown slice of toast or the crunchy, crackly skin of an overdone potato. You may be among the people who prefer their cookies extra crispy and their morning bagel browned to a mahogany hue. If so, you may want to consider reports that cooking your foods to a char may cause them to form toxic chemicals, including acrylamide and heterocyclic amines. Read on to learn more about these chemicals, and how consuming burned, toasted or charred foods may affect your health.
8. What Is Acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a chemical that is not only used in commercial industries such as construction and mining, but may also be formed when cooking starchy foods at high temperatures. According to the American Cancer Society, both the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the US Environmental Protection Agency consider acrylamide a possible human carcinogen. However, the American Cancer Society goes on to say that this classification is not based on any testing of human consumption of acrylamide in food.
7. Foods That May Contain Acrylamide
According to the FDA, foods that may form acrylamide when exposed to high temperatures include potatoes, grains, and coffee. The foods most strongly linked to the formation of acrylamide include potato chips, French fries, cereals, cookies, and toasted bread. The FDA is waiting for further research to determine if acrylamide in cooked foods is a serious threat to your health. However, if you are concerned about acrylamide, you may want to limit or avoid consuming these foods.
6. French Fries and Potato Chips
Frying foods exposes them to extremely high temperatures and can cause the formation of acrylamide. However, concerns of acrylamide aside, French fries and potato chips also tend to be high in saturated fat and covered in excess sodium. Furthermore, they are devoid of the protein, vitamins, and minerals provided by wholesome fare like fresh fruits and veggies. The FDA suggests cooking prepared French fries or sliced potatoes until they are golden in color rather than brown. The browner their appearance, the higher the likelihood they contain acrylamide.
Potatoes that have been cut into fries or made into chips aren’t the only potato products at risk of containing acrylamide. When you cook up a batch of spuds, you may be causing the formation of acrylamide. The FDA reports that more acrylamide is formed when potatoes are fried than when they are roasted or baked. To enjoy potatoes without acrylamide, you can boil them in water or microwave them with their skins on. This means your Thanksgiving helping of mashed potatoes should not cause you any harm from acrylamide.
Some people like their cookies soft and chewy. Others prefer them crispy and crunchy. Baking your cookies until they are dark brown or have burned edges can introduce acrylamide to this treat. Of course, as with potato chips, acrylamide isn’t the only harmful ingredient. Cookies are another item devoid of nutrients and packed with sugar and fat. Limiting these baked goods can improve your health in more ways than one. When you do choose to bake cookies, removing them from the oven when they are light brown as opposed to dark brown can decrease the amount of acrylamide you consume.
3. Toasted Bread
When you pop a slice of bread, an English muffin, or a bagel into your toaster, you may be toasting up some acrylamide. Again, the FDA has not determined that the levels of acrylamide in your foods are high enough to cause you harm. But if you are concerned, toast your bread to a light golden color rather than a darker brown hue. To further increase the nutritional value of your toast, use whole grain breads like whole wheat, whole grain, or multi-grain.
Your morning cup of joe is another place you may find acrylamide lurking. Studies indicate that the process used to roast coffee beans for coffee may introduce acrylamide. Unfortunately, coffee isn’t coffee unless it begins with roasted beans. A previous ruling by a California judge required coffee shops in that state to post warnings regarding a possible link between coffee and cancer. However, in June 2019, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment adopted a regulation stating that drinking coffee does not increase the risk of cancer. This means Californians can again enjoy their coffee shop java without fear-inducing warning signs over their heads.
1. Charred Meat
Grilled or roasted meat may also contain cancer-causing chemicals. These substances, heterocyclic amines (HCAs), can form when meat is cooked at high temperatures. Then, when consumed in large quantities, these chemicals can cause damage to DNA, which may trigger cancer. The National Cancer Institute states that animal studies have suggested a link between HCAs and breast, colon, rectal, and prostate cancers. There are steps you can take to prevent consuming excess HCAs from grilled meat. Remove charred sections from your cuts of meat, keep your grill clean from burned-on meat particles, and grill thinner cuts of meat to reduce cooking time.