The Anti-Cancer Barbecue

Healthy grilling recipes that help cut your disease risk.

Mexican Burger (Photo: Lisa Hubbard)

Mexican Burger

Traditional barbecue fare — with its sizzling lipids and charred carcinogens — can raise your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases that target over-40 women. But where there’s a grill, there’s a way. MORE scoured the latest studies and spoke to experts about which foods and cooking techniques boost health and lower risks. The result: four nutritious, worry-free summer dishes.

Mexican Burger

Why it’s good for you:

  • Grass-Fed Beef: A pound of it is pricey but here’s what you get for your money: higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 acids and lower levels of total fat than in non-grass-fed beef, according to a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Bonus: We added soy protein, which absorbs the meaty flavor and cuts the fat.
  • Whole-Grain Buns: You probably know that fiber helps prevent disease, but a new study from the University of Minnesota finds that the phytochemicals in whole grains may also fight the chronic inflammation that leads to or worsens arthritis and diabetes.
  • Salsa: Postmenopausal women with a high intake of green bell pepper and premenopausal women with a high intake of tomatoes showed lower rates of breast cancer, according to a study published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research.

Serves 4 (1 burger and 1/4 cup salsa per serving)


  • 1/4 cup dry textured vegetable protein (labeled TVP; available in health food stores)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef, at least 95% lean
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves


  • 1/2 pound ripe red tomato, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons diced red onion

1. Place the TVP and water in a small bowl; let it sit for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium-size bowl, mix the salt, pepper, and cumin into the ground beef with a spoon. Combine the beef mixture and TVP and form into four patties.

2. Spray the grill with fat-free nonstick cooking spray and heat to medium heat. Grill the burgers about 10 minutes on each side, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

3. Meanwhile, make the salsa: In a bowl, mix tomato, green pepper, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, cayenne, salt and onion. Garnish each burger with about 6 spinach leaves and 1/4 cup salsa; serve on the buns.

Nutritional Analysis

Per serving:

355 calories

35.5g protein

35g carbohydrates

8.4g total fat

3.1g saturated fat

5.3g fiber

501mg sodium

Grilled Vegetable Medley

Why it’s good for you:

  • Mushrooms: A new study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture finds that the cheapest and most ubiquitous mushroom in your supermarket — the humble white button variety — is actually one of the highest in antioxidants, which can reduce the risk of cancer by minimizing the damage caused by free radicals, unsteady molecules that latch onto healthy cells.
  • Edamame: A study published in Fertility and Sterility found that postmenopausal women who had 20 grams of soy protein a day (one serving of our dish delivers almost 3 grams) were able to stave off any gain in abdominal fat (hello, menopot), the most dangerous type when it comes to heart disease. "The phytoestrogens in soy mimic the estrogen in your body, and the more estrogen you have, the less fat you store around your middle," says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a nutritionist in Sarasota, Florida.

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