March 20 2008 post: Science Daily recently (http://tinyurl.com/32hx4t) reported on acrylamide. This is apparently a carcinogenic chemical that forms when we fry, bake or grill starch-rich foods at temperatures above 120 degrees Centigrade. Think about THAT the next time you bake some bread or some chocolate chip cookies! Or grill your spaghetti. Gee whiz. Another thing to worry about. Or…?
Okay, we all know that French fries are really really REALLY bad for us, and that is true for fried food as a category, but…bread and rice? And get this: apparently, the longer our food cooks, the more acrylamide is released. I think I might have been happier not knowing this.
But there is good news. We have ways of reducing the levels of this chemical. Perhaps you thought I was about to say by adding curcumin, huh? Nope, not this time. Although I do confess that curcumin was my first thought, and I did check up on it (but found nada).
This time it’s rosemary. Just add a bit of rosemary to your bread or chocolate chip cookies (…ehhhh?! I know, I know…but we might learn to like the taste…hehe). Seriously, now: The addition of rosemary to dough prior to baking a portion of wheat buns at 225°C reduced the acrylamide content by up to 60 per cent. Even rosemary in small quantities – in one per cent of the dough – was enough to reduce the acrylamide content significantly.
Rosemary has plenty of healthful properties, and I love the taste to boot. So whenever I make bread now, I simply add (to the dough) some chopped up rosemary from my very own rosemary bushes in the back yard. Easy peasy! And the result is always delicious.
Another thing that will reduce the levels of this chemical is…drum roll…the green tea extract: EGCG. Hah!
I read another suggestion: if you simply MUST have French fries, don’t fry them until they are practically burned (the darker they are, the higher their acrylamide content will be). And, even more importantly, soak the potatoes in water for at least a half hour before frying (if you soak them for a couple of hours, you reduce the acrylamide content by almost 50%). Basically, the longer they soak, the less acrylamide will end up in your body. Funny thing is, I have been doing that anyway ever since my mother-in-law told me to soak potatoes in water with a bit of vinegar. She said that would make the potatoes crispier. But perhaps there was more to it than that. Hmmm.
Smoking also increases your levels of this chemical, so, smokers, BEWARE (I am referring to two beloved members of my family, in particular). I’d say this would be another good reason to quit.
Well, acrylamide has been found to cause cancer and neurological problems in lab rats and mice, but very few studies have been done to date on human exposure to this chemical. So I am not going to worry too much about it, but to be on the safe side I will be adding rosemary to my carb-ridden food.
Links to more info on this subject:
http://tinyurl.com/3yrrz3 Heat isn’t necessarily the only thing that should concern us. Acrylamide can be found in dried fruit, too. Ok, that is IT, I’m throwing my leftover raisins into the garden! (Just kidding!) Anyway, here you will find out why you should choose baking soda over baking powder. And other titbits.
http://tinyurl.com/2goqoj This takes you to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency info on acrylamide. So if you want to know about the harmful effects of this stuff, check out this link. No worries, you won’t grow an extra head…but, truth be told, I only glanced at this page, so if that is one of your concerns, better check it out. Oh drat, I just read that it’s in coffee, too! Why did I read this blasted Science Daily article in the first place?
Tips on how to cut the level of this chemical can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2jzra3 Okay, no more roasted almonds for me!
http://tinyurl.com/3y2axv This link will take you to the Fanatic Cook’s blog. I read her blog from time to time. She is a cooking blogger/researcher with a good sense of humour, which I always appreciate. Anyway, here she looked up statistics (acrylamide content of a few popular foods), the FDA acceptable intake of acrylamide…you get the picture. A good read. I will add a link to her blog here.
http://tinyurl.com/2rqz42 go here for FDA data on the acrylamide content of a huge list of foods. Check out the acrylamide content of Pringles! Yikes!
The Netherlands Cohort Study on diet and cancer examined more than 60,000 postmenopausal women, finding “increased risks of postmenopausal endometrial and ovarian cancer with increasing dietary acrylamide intake, particularly among never-smokers,” but no increased breast cancer risks (published in November 2007): http://tinyurl.com/ypgqhq