Nutrition Articles

Rosemary Adds Taste and Safety to Meat

Nutrition News Flash

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Dr. J. Scott Smith of Kansas State University in Manhattan recently studied Heterocyclic Amines (HCA's), which are carcinogenic compounds that form when meat is cooked at high temperatures. He found that adding rosemary extract to ground beef reduced the amount of cancer-causing compounds created during grilling. He attributed this to the antioxidants found in the rosemary extract. Smith reported that Rosemary extract is very expensive and therefore recommends adding whole, crushed, or ground rosemary before you grill your meats. Rosemary can be added to ground beef or rubbed onto the surface of steak, pork chops, chicken or fish.

Action Sparked: Add whole, crushed, or ground rosemary to your favorite meat recipes to help reduce the amount of cancer-causing HCA's that are produced during grilling. Other cooking tips to decrease HCA's include:
  • Use lean cuts of meat and poultry, remove skin, and trim off the fat before cooking.
  • Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator before cooking.
  • Cut meat into small pieces.
  • Before grilling or broiling, pre-cook meat in the microwave for 2-5 minutes.
  • Marinate your meat.
  • Do not use the high setting on your grill.
  • Place the grill rack or broiler pan in a position away from the heat source.
  • Avoid eating blackened or charred meat.
  • Line the grill with foil and cut a few slits so the fat can drip away without allowing the smoke to waft onto the meat.
Try this Mediterranean Rosemary Rub Recipe:
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoons salt
Combine in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the garlic, herbs and lemon zest are chopped finely and ingredients are thoroughly combined. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. When ready to grill, rub a thin coating on the surface of steaks, pork chops or chicken breasts. Makes 1 cup.



Need more great grilling ideas? Check out our e-book, ''SparkPeople's Ultimate Grilling Guide: 75 Hearty, Healthy Recipes You Can Really Sink Your Teeth Into.'' Get it on Amazon.com and get grilling!
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Has anyone tried the rub? Seems like a lot of pepper, I think I'd have to cut down on that ingredient. - 1/9/2014 7:55:21 PM
  • Great article. - 7/27/2013 6:41:40 PM
  • I can't wait to try this - 1/6/2013 7:22:44 AM
  • MHARPER321
    from: http://www.cancer
    .gov/cancerto
    pics/factshee
    t/Risk/cooked-meats

    Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals formed when muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish, and poultry, is cooked using high-temperature methods, such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame.
    The formation of HCAs and PAHs is influenced by the type of meat, the cooking time, the cooking temperature, and the cooking method.
    Exposure to high levels of HCAs and PAHs can cause cancer in animals; however, whether such exposure causes cancer in humans is unclear.
    Currently, no Federal guidelines address consumption levels of HCAs and PAHs formed in meat.
    HCA and PAH formation can be reduced by avoiding direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface, reducing the cooking time, and using a microwave oven to partially cook meat before exposing it to high temperatures.
    Ongoing studies are investigating the associations between meat intake, meat cooking methods, and cancer risk.
    - 8/28/2012 1:33:42 PM
  • I appreciate this information - normally I do not rub or marinate my beef, and this is just the stimulus I need to start! Rosemary is easy to grow in a container. - 7/4/2011 12:55:31 AM
  • AZURE-SKY
    Is the author talking about grilling with charcoal or gas? Grilling on a gas barbecue isn't much different than broiling in the oven. Does broiling also cause cancer-causing agents?

    I wish these articles would be more informative - they barely scratch the surface and generate more questions than answers. - 5/29/2011 4:01:21 PM
  • DIANE2110
    Cancer-causing agents when grilling?!!!! - 9/26/2010 11:06:27 AM
  • Thank you for that article, I love rosemary. I sue it on chicken and turkey burgres the most. It has a wonderful smell and great taste to my food! - 5/23/2009 1:27:09 PM
  • KYKATEHEPBURN- The article Herbs and Spices to "Spark-Up" your Food in the related content section offers exactly that! - 9/4/2008 12:26:49 PM
  • It would be useful to have a sheet on herbs and spices that explain their taste. Just saying you can add something to meat, soup, vegetables, etc., doesn't explain how that will affect the taste. I do love these articles about spicing things up! - 9/4/2008 12:22:17 PM
  • Great article. Thanks. - 8/27/2008 12:00:17 AM
  • Good info to know...and the recipe is a keeper. Thanks. - 3/8/2008 5:48:04 PM