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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Angelica L Dumapit on June 13, 2022

Here’s Why You Should Avoid Burnt Food This Independence Day

If you're celebrating Independence Day at a family barbeque this year, you may want to stay away from blackened meat and fish. In this guide, we'll explain the connection between burnt food and cancer.

4th of july burnt food min scaled

Independence Day is one of the most patriotic and enthusiastically celebrated of all America’s holidays. There will be parades, barbeques, picnics, and fireworks throughout the country.

This means that there will be plenty of opportunities to eat good food throughout the weekend. However, if you’re trying to keep your health in mind, then you may way to stay away from burnt barbeque food.

In this guide, we’ll explain the link between burnt food and cancer, and what you should eat instead this Independence Day.

What Is Independence Day?

Many families celebrate Independence Day by gathering for a barbeque and lighting fireworks.

Independence Day, otherwise known as the 4th of July, is a federal holiday in the United States. It celebrates the national anniversary of the country’s independence as ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

To celebrate the holiday, many public offices and stores are closed. People gather with family and friends over the weekend for cookouts and to watch fireworks.

Commonly consumed foods during this time include hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ chicken, steak, fish, and processed meats. While these foods might be tasty, they could be dangerous for your health, especially if they are overcooked.

Do Burnt Foods Cause Cancer?

One of the associated health risks of eating burnt food is a potential increased risk of cancer. Research shows that eating a diet high in fried, well-done, or barbecued meats was linked to an increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.

As registered Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Chu I Ta explained, “The cause for concern is two different compounds that can form while cooking meat on a grill. Both are known carcinogens. These include heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs form in protein-rich foods when cooked at very high heat, like BBQ and grilled. PAHs form when fat drips around the meat. The compounds can get deposited on whatever you are grilling and consuming.”

Physician Chu continued, “Mountains of evidence and research stated both carcinogens are related to the increased risk of cancers. A diet high in HCAs has been linked to an increased risk of breast, colon, liver, skin, lung, prostate, and other cancers. PAH-high diets have been linked to leukemia, as well as GI and lung cancer. And a number of ongoing studies on cancer prevention and diet seek to shed greater light on the effects of these compounds on human cancers. Currently, there are no guidelines as to how much consumption of HCAs and PAHs we should be eating.” 

Health Risks Of Burnt Food On Independence Day, According To TCM

According to TCM, eating excessive grilled and oily foods contributes to excess Heat and Dampness in the body. This may lead to syndromes such as:

Heat-Phlegm in the Stomach and Spleen

To address this condition, Physician Chu recommends a formula called Bao He Wan


  • Massa Fermentata Medicinalis (Shen Qu)
  • Hawthorn (Shan Zha)
  • Poria (Fu Ling)
  • Rhizoma Pinelliae (Ban Xia)
  • Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)
  • Fructus Forsythiae (Lian Qiao)
  • Semen Raphani (Lai Fu Zi) 

“The above formula is recommended to improve the digestion of excess oily food and meat. It’s good for constipated patients who always have a bloated stomach,” Physician Chu explained. 

Deficiency in Stomach and Spleen

The recommended formula for this condition is Jian Pi Wan. 


  • Atractylodes macrocephala (Bai Shu)
  • Hawthorn (Shan Zha)
  • Saussurea costus (Mu Xiang)
  • Poria (Fu Ling)
  • Massa Fermentata Medicinalis (Shen Qu)
  • Fructus Hordei Germinatus (Mai Ya)
  • Areca catechu (Bing Lang)
  • Coptis chinensis (Huang Lian)  

“The above formula is good for patients who feel weak in digestion or may experience diarrhea and loose stools after heavy meals,” explained Physician Chu. 

Best Herbal Tea For Digestion

Physician Chu recommends Luo Shen Jue Ming Zi Tea for digestive ailments due to eating heavy barbequed meals.

Here are the ingredients:

  • Roselle (Luo Shen Hua) 15g 
  • Cassia Seed (Jue Ming Zi) 10g 
  • Hawthorn (Shan Zha) 10g 
  • Dark Plum (Wu Mei) 5 pieces 
  • Lotus Leaf (He Ye) 10g 


  1. Clean and wash the herbal ingredients. Place them in a tea bag.  
  2. Place the tea bag in 2,000 ml of boiling water. Heat for another 20 mins over low heat.  
  3. You are ready to drink. You can add an adequate small amount of honey to flavor the tea. Do not add sugar.  

You can also clear excess Heat in the body due to eating too many burnt meats by taking a Heat Expulsion supplement.

Tips For Avoiding Burnt Food This Independence Day

Avoid burnt meat this Independence Day by filling the majority of your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables.

So, does this mean that you have to avoid all grilled or barbequed meat this Independence Day? And do the same rules apply to burnt vegetables?

As Physician Chu explained, the increased risk of cancer due to burnt foods mostly applies to meat. However, “Do take note you may lose some nutrients from the vegetables if they are fried or grilled.”

Here are some general tips for keeping it safe this Independence Day if you plan to barbeque or grill:

  • Eat less red meat and focus on fresh fruits and vegetables with vibrant colors. Certain fruits contain antioxidant flavonoids, which can help in the prevention of cancer. Try to include other side dishes like green vegetables and soybean soup for easier digestion.  
  • Buy fresh meat and marinate it yourself to ensure healthy ingredients are used. Supermarket marinated meat may not be freshly made and may contain nitrates that lead to colon cancer when consumed in large amounts.
  • Use partially pre-cooked meat to reduce the grilling time. When grilling, go slow and use low heat fire. Reduce the high heat and fast grilling style to prevent HCAs. 
  • Use aluminum foil to wrap the food for direct contact with the grilling stove and rack. 
  • Drink less beer and more TCM herbal teas (such as hawthorn tea) to improve the digestion of grilled meat in the stomach. 
  • Remove the burnt part of the food before eating it.

Final Thoughts

Remember, you don’t have to completely avoid barbeques this Independence Day. With these healthy eating tips, you can enjoy your celebration and still keep your health in mind.

If you have any questions regarding the link between burnt foods and cancer, be sure to consult your doctor or a registered TCM physician for more information.

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