Healthy-Up Your Burger

Healthy-Up Your Burger

A tart cherry pie may be an Independence Day cookout favorite, but save a few of those sour red beauties for your burgers, too.

It may sound strange, but adding chopped tart cherries to your ground-meat mixture will make the hamburgers healthier and tastier. They'll be juicier and lower in fat, and they'll form far fewer carcinogens during high-heat grilling.

The Heat Is On
When meat is cooked at high temperatures or for too long, nasty compounds called heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) can form, and they're linked to all sorts of cancers, including colon, breast, stomach, pancreatic, and prostate. But adding about 1/3 cup of chopped tart cherries to every pound of ground beef can slash HAA production by as much as 90 percent!

Want to make your RealAge younger by eating less red meat? Get started with these healthy substitute recipes.

Cutting Carcinogens
Your best bet for reducing HAAs is to use lower-temp cooking methods like stewing, boiling, or baking. If you do grill, here are some other ways to healthy-up your barbecue:

  • Turn down the temp. Set your grill's temperature to 320-356 degrees Fahrenheit (160-180 degrees Celsius). Higher temps don't save much cooking time, but they do increase the formation of HAAs. Invest in a meat thermometer to make sure you cook meats to the proper internal temperature -- undercooked meat can cause a nasty bout of this.
  • Keep flipping. Flip your burgers every minute or so while grilling. They'll cook faster and form fewer HAAs than if you flip 'em just once halfway through cooking.
  • Microwave first. Microwave meats for 1 1/2-2 minutes before grilling, and toss the drippings, which contain the building blocks for HAAs.
  • Marinate. Marinate meats for at least 10 minutes before cooking to reduce the formation of HAAs. Great marinade choices include olive oil, red wine vinegar, teriyaki sauce, or citrus juices loaded with garlic, onion, herbs, and spices.
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