What is acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a toxic substance that forms when foods containing simple carbohydrates and the amino acid asparagine are cooked together at high temperatures. A statement by the European Food Safety Agency said that acrylamide in food is both carcinogenic (potentially cancer-causing) and genotoxic (can damage the genetic material of cells), therefore acrylamide is very unhealthy. Unfortunately, if you fry, grill, toast or bake certain types of foods, or eat processed versions that already have been, it’s going to be pretty hard to avoid it completely.
Potato chips, french fries, burnt toast, and baked, grilled or roasted carbohydrate foods are the most likely to contain acrylamide. Levels appear to increase the more cooked and burnt the food is. The darker the toast, fries, crisps, cookies etc, the worse it may be for exposure to this potentially dangerous compound.
7 Ways to Minimize Your Exposure to Acrylamide in Food
A healthy body getting good levels of antioxidants in your meals and eating a variety of nutritious foods should be able to deal with some exposure to acrylamide, but it makes sense to minimize and where possible avoid some of the biggest sources ahead.
1. Cut right back on french fries and potato chips
These items are two of the worst culprits. They are damaging to your health and completely devoid of any redeeming nutritional qualities.
2. Avoid cooking toast until it’s burnt
Turn the toaster time down a few notches so the bread is only just toasted. If you do burn it, the best thing to do is throw it away.
Even if you don’t toast your bread, the crust will be likely to contain the highest levels of acrylamide and may well be worth cutting off your sandwich before you eat it.
3. Store potatoes in a cool and dark place if you’re going to roast, fry or bake them
This may help stop them forming too many simple sugars – the precursor to the formation of acrylamide. Soaking and then drying potatoes before using them may also help to remove some of the sugar content.
Research shows that boiling or steaming potatoes doesn’t seem to produce acrylamide like roasting, frying or baking does. This is a healthier way to cook root vegetables particularly steaming which also maintains the most nutrients.
4. Choose a lighter roast of freshly ground coffee if you drink it
Dark roasted instant coffee has been demonstrated to have very high levels of acrylamide. Lighter roasts may reduce, but not completely avoid exposure.
5. Stop smoking
The fact remains that this toxic chemical has been found in cigarette smoke. If you smoke, the other points on this list are even more important as the higher your exposure levels to acrylamide, from all the various sources in a day, the more risk your body cells are at of potentially cancerous changes.
6. Try to avoid getting the food too brown and overcooked
Try to avoid overcooking or browning your food especially if you are baking, roasting, grilling or frying carbohydrate foods like potatoes or wheat. The longer the cooking time and the higher the temperature the more potential for acrylamide to be formed.
7. Take N-acetyl-cysteine
This supplement may help replenish your natural levels of the antioxidant glutathione, may have a specific protective effect against acrylamide in food, according to some animal studies. If this is the case, taking it with baked, fried or roasted carbohydrate foods may help to minimize any potential damage.
The best protection is to cut back on fried, roasted, baked and processed foods and add in better alternatives, like more steamed vegetables in your meals and nuts, seeds and fruit.