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How to Enjoy the Summer Foods of Texas and Lower Your Cancer Risk, Too

July 05, 2023

For Many People, Summertime Is Grilling Time. Meat, Fire, Smoke, Bliss.

Unfortunately, many types of grilled meats have been shown to increase the risk of some types of cancer. Add to that high-calorie side dishes like pasta and potato salads, sugar-filled drinks, and excess consumption of alcohol, and your summertime celebrations can lead to potential health problems.

Proper nutrition is important year-round and can help reduce cancer risk. If you or a loved one has cancer, it’s even more important to watch what you eat and drink as the disease and its treatments can change how your body tolerates certain foods and uses nutrients. 

The good news is that with some thoughtful menu planning, you can make healthy choices when it comes to summer food selections and still enjoy all the wonderful moments the season brings.

Food Science: The Connection Between Grilled Meats and Cancer

Meat cooked at high temperatures or over an open flame can lead to the formation of compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds can be potentially carcinogenic and may be associated with a higher risk of certain types of cancer.

However, it is important to note that the risk can be reduced by making smart choices when it comes to the type of meat, method of cooking, frequency of consumption, and one's overall dietary and lifestyle factors.

Below are some tips for mitigating risks associated with grilled meats:

  • Use lean cuts of meat and trim excess fat to reduce risk of flare-ups and dripping fat that can cause harmful smoke and flames. Opt for healthier proteins like skinless chicken, fish, or turkey.
  • Marinating meats prior to grilling using herbs, spices, and acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar can help reduce the formation of harmful compounds.
  • Precooking or partially cooking meat in the oven or on the stove before grilling can reduce the time spent on high heat.
  • Smaller cuts of meat or skewers with added vegetables decreases cooking time.

Exploring the Bountiful Feast of Food in the Texas Summer

Summer presents the opportunity to incorporate and consume a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods and produce options that contribute to one's overall health and potentially reduce the risk of cancer.

Eating seasonally offers many benefits, as fruits and vegetables are typically more ripe and full of flavor and haven't been stored for long periods of time. Here in Texas, wonderful fresh produce is always available.

  • Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are full of antioxidants and are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts contain compounds that activate enzymes that detoxify carcinogens and reduce inflammation.
  • Add leafy greens like spinach, kale, and arugula to salads and summer smoothies. They are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene which has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate, lung, and stomach cancers.
  • Citrus fruits including oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes are excellent sources of vitamin C, which may help protect against certain types of cancer and provide dietary fiber.
  • Herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, mint, or oregano are great additions to season summer dishes or in refreshing smoothies.
  • Many vibrant vegetables abound in Texas in summer. Take advantage of the availability of colorful additions to your food selection like red and yellow bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets.

No matter the season, always keep in mind that a balanced and varied diet, combined with healthy lifestyle choices and regular physical activity are key to reducing the risk of cancer. Now get out there and have a wonderful summer!

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.