Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs)

avoid heterocyclic amines

If you like your steak well done, I have some unappetizing news: You’re being exposed to dangerous carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are formed when muscle meats –beef, pork, poultry and fish—are exposed to high temperatures. More specifically, it is the reaction between amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and creatine (a chemical found in muscles) reacting at high temperatures that creates these harmful byproducts.

Heterocyclic Amines: A Recipe for Cancer

Recent research shows HCAs increase the risk for several types of cancer including stomach cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer.

A National Cancer Institute study assessed the diets and cooking habits of 176 people diagnosed with stomach cancer and 503 people without cancer. The researchers found that those who ate their beef medium-well or well-done had more than three times the risk of stomach cancer than those who ate their beef rare or medium-rare. They also found that people who ate beef four or more times a week had more than twice the risk of stomach cancer than those consuming beef less frequently.

5 Simple Ways to Protect Yourself from Heterocyclic Amines

Halt HCAs! Reduce the formation of HCAs by following these simple tips:

  1. Avoid Frying, Grilling & Broiling Meats: These high-heat cooking methods are those most likely to cause HCAs to form. In fact, one study showed a threefold increase in the content of HCAs when the cooking temperature was increased from 392° to 482°F (200° to 250°C).
  2. Opt for Slow & Low Techniques as Your #1 Method: Stewing, boiling, poaching and slow-cooking are done at or below 212°F (100°C) . Cooking at this low temperature creates negligible amounts of HCAs.
  3. Roast Meats, But Don’t Make Gravy: Because oven roasting and baking are done at lower temperatures, lower levels of HCAs are likely to form. However, the meat drippings do contain substantial amounts of HCAs. Avoid using the drippings as au jus or sauce base.
  4. Marinate with Antioxidant-Rich Herbs & Spices: Research shows that marinating meat in an antioxidant-rich blend can reduce the risk of HCAs forming by more than 80 percent. Try rosemary and turmeric—two high antioxidant, high flavor additions.
  5. Get Fruity: Adding cherries to burger meat (12% of the total burger) reduced the formation of HCAs by 70%. Check out our Grass-Fed Cherry Burgers
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About The Author

Kelley Herring, founder of Healing Gourmet, is a natural nutrition enthusiast with a background in biochemistry. Her passion is educating on how foods promote health and protect against disease and creating simple and delicious recipes for vibrant health and enjoyment.

Kelley Herring – who has written posts on Healing Gourmet.

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