For many of us in the US, Memorial Day weekend conjures up feelings of gratitude, thanksgiving and -- of course -- grilling.
It's a fact: per the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association, Memorial Day is the second-biggest grilling day of the year---only the Fourth of July tops it.
Millions of Americans will fire up their grills this weekend, but what many of them won't know is that those tasty, blackened bits that appear on steaks, burgers and other meats after you've grilled them might be putting them at increased risk for colon cancer.
Those bits of browned or blackened meat created by cooking meat at high temperatures contain compounds that, while still little understood, have been linked to increased risk of colon cancer and other diseases when consumed regularly.
While consuming grilled meat is probably okay if done so in moderation, you'll probably be better off using some of these tactics to lessen or eliminate the harmful effects of grilled meat.
1. Marinate Your Meat Before Cooking
Marinating your meat in vinegar or citrus will add some zest to the flavor of your meat, but it also may fight the cancer-causing compounds created during grilling.
Additionally, a recent study shows marinating meat in beer (especially dark beer) can reduce the amount of harmful compounds created by grilling.
2. Pre-cook Meat to Reduce Grilling Time
Grilling your meat for a shorter amount of time reduces its time on the grill and therefore limits the amount of compounds that form with it.
You can use a microwave or an oven set on a low temperature to start cooking the meat.
3. Avoid Red or Processed Meat
Although chicken and fish still produce the harmful compounds discussed above, they probably won't have any other know qualities that might increase cancer risk.
Red meat (like beef) and processed meat (like bacon, sausage and lunch meat) on the other hand, have a well-established link to increased colon cancer risk.
4. Cover Your Grill or Meat in Foil
When juices from meat drip into your grill, they react with the heat to produce PAHs, one of the harmful compounds. Putting a barrier between the flame and your meat can help prevent this reaction.
If you want to get creative, you can even combine this idea with our first tip by separating grill and meat with a layer of lemon slices!
5. Remove Blackened or Browned Bits From Your Beat Before Eating
This is a pretty straightforward one: the areas of your grilled meat that are blackened or brown are those most likely to contain harmful compounds.
Remove them and you've likely made your meat much safer for eating.
6. Eat Your Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts
"Cruciferous" vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips are known cancer fighters because they contain plenty of sulforophane, which attacks cancer at the cellular level.
When combined with healthy grilling habits, you'll be well on your way to a healthier Memorial Day cookout.
7. Fruits, Veggies and Beans
Foods rich in anti-oxidants may have have anti-cancer properties that help counter the negative effects of grilled meat.
Fruits, vegetables and beans have plenty of anti-oxidants, so consider those on the side with your meat.
8. Try Grilling Something Besides Meat
Just because you're grilling doesn't mean you have to be cooking meat. Fruits and veggies can be great when served fresh off the grill.
Throw some corn on for a unique twist on an American classic. Wrap some asparagus or peppers in foil and grill for a tasty vegetable side. Even apples can be grilled lightly for added flavor.