When the meat hits the heat you’re indulging in the best of summer cooking. And along with the mouthwatering aroma and flavor, you’re getting steaks, burgers and pork chops that are supposedly healthier since the meat’s fat drips out during cooking.

Unfortunately, cooking meat at high temperatures, which most people do when grilling, has its own health risks, according to nutrition experts. Grilling could increase your potential for developing certain cancers or expose you to toxins that are risk factors for several major diseases.

You don’t have to give up your favorite cooking technique, however, if you take precautions as you grill.

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are a class of toxins that your body absorbs when you eat grilled, fried or broiled animal products, such meat or cheese. AGEs are linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, vascular and kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Cooking meat at high temperatures is especially troubling.

“It seems to speed up the reaction that causes the AGE to form, so you get a higher level,” says Susan Goodman, a registered dietitian in the division of experimental diabetes and aging at Mount Sinai.

Her caution is based on the medical school’s studies of close to 175 healthy adults in different age groups. The people who ate more fried, grilled and broiled foods had higher AGE levels. Other studies at Mount Sinai, on animals, showed that trimming the AGE levels in the food increased the animals’ life spans.

If that weren’t enough, grilling fatty meat, such as a well-marbled steak, over high heat can produce chemicals with cancer-causing potential, according to an article in the June issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

In addition, using charcoal, which many grill purists insist on, gives off fumes that may also be carcinogenic, according to Anthony Komaroff, M.D. and editor in chief of the health letter.

Despite the negative news you can safely grill following tips from the experts.

• Use a combination of cooking techniques to prepare meat.

“I sear meat on a grill, then finish cooking it in the microwave. The meat tastes as good as if it was completely done on the grill,” says Dr. Komaroff.

• Grill food in foil to reduce the formation of AGE.

“Fish in foil is wonderful on the grill,” says Bob Sloan, the author of “Dad’s Own Cookbook” (Workman Publishing, 2007).

Place fish on a sheet of heavy-duty foil, season with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of olive oil. “In 20 minutes the fish is succulent and tender and you have the juices from cooking,” says Sloan.

• Marinate fish, chicken or meat before grilling.

“The acid medium seems to limit AGE,” says Goodman.

• Grill small pieces of animal foods.

“Choose thin cuts of boneless chicken breast that cook more rapidly. If you take cubes of meat or fish and skewer them they’ll cook more quickly,” Goodman says.

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