Marinade Does More than Enhance Taste
Republished with permission of Natural Standards Research Collaboration ©2008

Marinating meat before tossing it on the grill may do more than just add flavor. Researchers have discovered that marinades rich in spices may help reduce cancer-causing compounds found in steak.

When muscle meat is cooked at high temperatures, potential cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) may form. Some studies have linked HCAs to stomach, colorectal, pancreatic and breast cancers in humans. Temperature is the main factor involved in HCA formation. Barbecuing produces the most HCAs, followed by pan-frying and broiling. Baking, poaching, stir-frying and stewing produce the least HCAs.

Scientists from Kansas State University found that antioxidant-rich spice and herb marinades may decrease HCA formation in steak by up to 88 percent.

The researchers tested the effects of three different pre-packaged marinade mixes in typical home-cooking conditions. Fresh eye of round beef steaks were immersed in Caribbean, Southwest or herb marinade mixes for one hour. All of the marinades contained at least two spices from the mint family, which are rich in the antioxidants.

The steaks were about 3.3 ounces each and one-fifth of an inch thick. These steaks, as well as non-marinated steaks and steaks in non-spice marinades, were then cooked on an electric skillet at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for five minutes per side.

After cooking, the researchers compared the levels of HCAs in all steaks and found that steaks marinated in the Caribbean blend had an 88 percent decrease in HCA levels. The herb blend reduced HCAs by 72 percent, and the Southwest blend reduced levels by 57 percent.

To learn more about possible ways to decrease the risk of cancer, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions database.

J.S. Smith, F. Ameri, P. Gadgil. Effect of Marinades on the Formation of Heterocyclic Amines in Grilled Beef Steaks (p T100-T105). Journal of Food Sciences. Volume 73 Issue 6, Pages T100 - T105. Published Online: Jul 14 2008.