As summer winds down for many in the northern hemisphere, one last barbecue is a lovely way to kiss the season goodbye.
Grab some hot dogs and hamburgers and fire up the grill?
Maybe best not. Stop and think about what you are doing: the hot flames make these saturated fat, high cholesterol processed meats even more lethal: heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons form which can encourage cancers of many types. These are two of the same carcinogens swirling in the burning of tobacco in cigarettes; according to a publication produced by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the average American when consuming overcooked or charbroiled meats consumes the same amount of carcinogens as are inhaled in a pack and a half of cigarettes. Yum. Add a few mayonnaise salads, taco chips and fatty dips along with rich desserts and we have a picnic where no one is thinking of badminton.
Now the good news: Picnic fare can be healthy, prolific with probiotics and phytochemicals and also delicious.
First, if you insist on meat, there are ways to lessen the damage: marinate the meat for a protective shield and turn the meat on the grill frequently. Steam or bake instead of grilling or pan-frying. In addition, adding a side of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower (laced with olive oil and garlic) mops up some of the damage.
Whole fish or salmon or crunchy lentil burgers are good substitutes for charred beef or lamb.
Salmon burgers add healthful omega 3 oils; pickles and kimchee stow protective microbes, whole wheat rolls give needed dietary fibers; a wedge of watermelon will taste better than a brownie on a hot day; carrots and celery stalks with yogurt dip supply needed vitamins and probiotics to the mix.
If you find resistance among friends or family, start with a few additions to the normal fare. A romanticized view of charred meats may take some time to change. But with a little effort, you may find old Uncle Harry sneaking a taste of that veggie burger.