05/24/2017 10:26 EDT

Spice Rubs Can Help Limit Cancerous Compounds In Grilled Meat

Spice rubs are the spice of life, literally.

A new Kansas State University study has found that not only do spice rubs make grilled meat more flavourful, but they actually keep you healthy, too.

Investigators found that black pepper in particular nearly eliminates the formation of a carcinogenic compound called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which can form on the surface of meat (including beef, fish, pork and poultry) when it is cooked at high temperatures.

grilled meat spice rub

According to the National Cancer Institute, HCAs "cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer," and although studies have shown that exposure to HCAs can cause cancer in animals, "Population studies have not established a definitive link between HCA and PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) exposure from cooked meats and cancer in humans."

Despite this, according to the National Cancer Institute, many epidemiologic studies have used questionnaires to look at participants' meat consumption and meat cooking methods to estimate HCA and PAH exposures. The study researchers found that a high consumption of "well-done, fried, or barbecued meats was associated with increased risks of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer."

J. Scott Smith, a Kansas State University animal sciences and industry professor, found that blending black pepper with other spices could limit the formation of HCAs.

"Blending pepper with antioxidant-rich spices works so well in ground beef patties and on steaks that the spice formulation eliminates nearly 100 per cent of HCAs,” Smith said in a report. "In these cases, the spices are added at a level that is quite practical, so the result is flavourful and healthy."

bbq hamburger spice

Smith also found that marinades and herbs work well at limiting HCAs and a store-bought marinade reduces HCAs to nearly zero. He also noted that when it comes to marinating time, less is more.

"Some people might think that if a little time in the marinade does some good for the meat, then a lot of marinating time would do a lot of good, but marinating too long has the opposite effect because it can cause the antioxidants in the sauce to decompose," Smith said. "Just a couple of hours is an ideal time for marinating."

To read more about the findings, check out the report here.