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Like eating burnt food? Here’s why you should avoid it

A burnt toast or charred meat might be something that you like to eat. But you should avoid eating burnt food to stay healthy.
Side effects of burnt food
Like eating burnt food? Here's why you should avoid it. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 21 Mar 2023, 10:00 am IST
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During the morning rush, there are times when you end up eating burnt toast. You don’t think much about it and just nosh it with a glass of milk or juice. Even at family gatherings, you like to have meat that’s slightly burnt. Now it might seem harmless, but you should avoid burnt food. Over the years, attempts have even been made to find a link between burnt food and cancer. It might not necessarily mean that you will have cancer if you eat burnt food. But there can be health problems if you don’t avoid eating burnt food.

To know whether eating burnt food is good or bad, HealthShots connected with holistic health coach Azhar Ali Sayed.

burnt food
High heat cooking needs to be done carefully. Image Courtesy: Freepik

Should you avoid eating burnt food?

Once we start cooking, we see the food undergoing changes. It not just gets softer, but it also undergoes a number of chemical changes during cooking. All this helps to make it suitable for human consumption. It turns out that heat accelerates chemical reactions, which has both positive and negative effects on the meal. Sayed says that in addition to making food more difficult to digest and metabolise, overcooking can also cause food to become charred or burnt. It releases compounds such as acrylamide that aren’t healthy for us.

During high-temperature cooking methods, acrylamide can be formed in some foods like potatoes, cereals, coffee and bread, says Food and Drug Administration’s chemist Lauren Robin. According to the Food and Drug Administration, it has been shown to cause cancer in animals exposed to very high doses of acrylamide. But there is no consistent evidence on the effect of acrylamide from food consumption on cancer in humans. Still, acrylamide is considered to be a human health concern by the US National Toxicology Program and the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives.

Burnt food and acrylamide

While there are benefits of steam cooking, the synthesis of acrylamide can be sparked by several conventional cooking methods. It includes cooking methods like baking, barbecuing, grilling, frying, toasting or roasting. Yet, because they use less oil, these methods of cooking are touted as being healthy.

Although there is not enough evidence that acrylamide can cause cancer, the expert recommends eating fresh fruits, vegetables, fibre rich foods and avoiding high sugar, salty, fatty, and processed foods to stay healthy. You can try out cancer-preventing foods too.

Burnt food tends to enhance flavour

There are some people who like to eat burnt food as it enhances the flavour. Sayed says that the Maillard reaction is the mechanism that’s responsible for the browning and characteristic flavour of food. So, it heightens the flavour profile of food.

Burnt food
Burnt toast is not a healthy option. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Tips to be careful while opting for high heat cooking methods

Cooking at home can be easy and healthy, but always keep an eye on the time. Sayed says that nutritional loss increases with cooking time as some vitamins are more sensitive to heat.

Here’s what to do when you go for high heat cooking methods

• While using high heat cooking techniques, it is important to only cook food till golden brown and not dark brown or scorched.
• To speed up the time it takes to cook some meats and vegetables, par-boil them beforehand before using them.

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Be it roasting, grilling, boiling, baking or frying, just keep these points in mind to avoid burning your food and also retain its flavour.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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