How Easy Is It to Create Acrylamide?
Whether it’s whole grain or gluten free, people enjoy eating toast. It is a form of comfort food for many. Whether you place home made jam on it, coconut oil or even grass fed butter, it is hard to believe that toast would be on the “ouch” list.
Before you pick up that next slice, take a look at what we’ve found. Ovens, cook tops, even toasters tend to heat food up to as high as 450 degrees Fahrenheit. As much as we enjoy food that is piping hot, there is a chemical reaction in some foods that create a neurotoxin in humans known as acrylamide. The National Toxicology Program lists it as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."
Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during the high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Boiling and steaming do not typically form acrylamide.
Acrylamide in food forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food as part of the Maillard Reaction (that’s the chemical reaction that transforms the flavor and color of food when cooked).
Acrylamide has probably always been present in cooked foods. However, it was first detected in certain foods in April 2002. Since then, the FDA has been actively investigating the effects of acrylamide as well as potential measures to reduce it. On March 1, 2016, the FDA posted a document with practical strategies to help growers, manufacturers and food service operators lower the amount of acrylamide in foods associated with higher levels of the chemical.
Acrylamide is found mainly in foods made from plants, such as potato products, grain products, or coffee. Some foods are larger sources of acrylamide, including certain potato products (especially French fries and potato chips), coffee, dried fruits, and foods made of grains (such as breakfast cereal, crackers, cookies, and toast. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, acrylamide is found in 40 percent of the calories consumed in the average American diet.
Ways to Reduce Creating a Carcinogen
- Comparing frying, roasting, and baking potatoes, frying causes the highest acrylamide formation. Roasting potato pieces causes less acrylamide formation, followed by baking whole potatoes. Boiling potatoes does not produce acrylamide.
- Soaking raw potato slices in water for 15-30 minutes before frying or roasting helps reduce acrylamide formation during cooking. (Soaked potatoes should be drained and blotted dry before cooking to prevent splattering or fires.)
- Storing potatoes in the refrigerator can result in increased acrylamide during cooking. Therefore, store potatoes outside the refrigerator, preferably in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or a pantry, to prevent sprouting.
- Generally, more acrylamide accumulates when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures. Cooking cut potato products, such as frozen French fries or potato slices, to a golden yellow color rather than a brown color helps reduce acrylamide formation. Brown areas tend to contain more acrylamide.
- Toasting bread to a light brown color, rather than a dark brown color, lowers the amount of acrylamide. Very brown areas should be avoided, since they contain the most acrylamide.
- Acrylamide forms in coffee when coffee beans are roasted, not when coffee is brewed at home or in a restaurant. So far, scientists have not found good ways to reduce acrylamide formation in coffee.
Years ago, we ate that piece of burnt toast so as not to waste food. We just added more jam to it. We also made inexpensive meals of fried potatoes with crispy brown edges we affectionately called “burnt potatoes.”
Yet, today, I find myself easily cutting up root vegetables and drizzling olive oil over them and roasting them at 400 degrees for an hour. This makes a great dish with leftovers and a busy person likes leftovers. What I have learned is, that to make it even healthier, I can soak my root vegetables for a while first, before I roast them, and then I can enjoy serving an even healthier meal.
Knowing that people are continuing their research on how to prepare food with less neurotoxins, carcinogens and all around more healthfully should give us all a great sense of relief even though we aren’t necessarily seeing this news on our local television networks.