The discovery of carcinogenic acrylamides in our foods, by Swedish scientists in 2002, made global news and personally made me a little depressed at the time. It seemed that no matter how committed I was to good healthy nutrition, new research always seemed to throw a curve ball. On the back of the Swedish scientists discoveries, various publications circulated tales of cancer-causing food; basically any food that had been grilled, baked or fried. I began mentally striking off offending foods from my list and preparing myself to a lifetime of boiled food. I might say it was not an appealing thought that I would have to deny myself a sweet date and walnut loaf.
However, as a certified nutritionist, it is always in my professional, as well as personal interests to keep my eye on new developments. Taking a closer look into research and publications into the subject, I was slightly relieved by some of my findings. The threat of cancer-causing acrylamides is real; however it is one that can be greatly reduced. Acrylamides are cancer-causing chemicals which are created when foods are grilled, fried, baked or roasted at high temperatures; exceeding 120 degrees Celsius (248 degree Fahrenheit). Amino acids in starchy foods are particularly singled out and are thought to change into acrylamide under these high temperature cooking methods, however by boiling or steaming, the presence of acrylamides are far less in food. Acrylamide is certainly a chemical you do not want present in your body when you realize that it is used to make polyacrylamide materials – glues, paper and cosmetics. Polyacrylamide materials contain very small, safe levels of acrylamide. However, acrylamide is also one of the many carcinogenic ingredients contained inside cigarettes.
Acrylamide Levels in Certain Foods:
- Potato chips – 546 micrograms/kg
- French fries – 698 micrograms/kg
- Breakfast cereal – 131 micrograms/kg
So How Do You Avoid This Carcinogenic Danger?
First, if you are committed to a weight loss program and healthy choices then you should be avoiding potato chips and french fries anyway. However, you might be tempted to the odd cookout, which is sure to present some charred meat or sausages which equals high acrylamide levels! In reality, even some healthy options such as cereal and multi-grain bread carry high acrylamide amounts and you may find there are certain foods you just don’t want to give up. The solution is at hand if you have been following up on the benefits of antioxidants. Tea polyphenols, resveratrol (grape skin and red wine), and diallyl trisulfide, a substance found in garlic, have been found to reduce or reverse the damage that acrylamides can do to our bodies.
Of course other antioxidants might also aid the risks associated with acrylamides, but the tea polyphenols, resveratrol and diallyl trisulfide has been pointed out as potentially effective. I have been much relieved at some of these revelations seeing as I include garlic, grape and tea polyphenols in my daily nutrition. I eat half a raw garlic clove daily as it provides antioxidants, boosts my immunity and aids a healthy heart; and tea polyphenols and resveratrol fight off the aging free radicals. So, if you are not including these powerful antioxidants into your nutrition, you now have another reason to. Also, just by introducing garlic cloves into your meals, you can enjoy similar benefits to those of eating half a clove raw!