That well-done steak you ate from your grill last weekend doesn't have to keep you up at night, worrying about getting cancer.
Though crispy meats contain heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that cause cancer, a researcher at Kansas State University says certain marinades appear to decrease the risk.
J. Scott Smith, a professor of food chemistry, experimented with several prepackaged, powdered marinades found at the grocery store. They contained herbs and spices found in the mint family.
He found that marinating steak in a product containing rosemary and thyme (and also containing pepper, allspice and salt) decreased HCAs the most - 87 percent.
Two other marinades were almost as effective. One contained oregano, thyme, garlic and onion, and the other had oregano, garlic, basil, onion and parsley.
"There are different brands," Smith says. "We followed the marinating instructions according to the label. We cooked it, and it tasted fine."
He says grillers also can add the herbs and spices directly to their meats to get a similar effect.
Smith, whose research was done for the Food Safety Consortium, says he wants to research additional seasonings.
"I plan on taking a look at a lot of them, probably about 20 of them," he says. "The major ones are in the mint family - basil, sage, thyme, oregano and rosemary. They have some similar properties."