Prevent Skin Cancer with BBQ Ribs
How to turn your Memorial Day cookout into a cancer-fighting food fest.
It’s the unofficial start of summer, which means it’s also the unofficial start of a steady stream of health stories telling us about the importance of wearing sunscreen. Yet no matter how many times we’re told, only about 1 in 3 of us protect our skin regularly, according to a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yet while 99 out of 100 doctors recommend daily sunscreen, there are other ways—gourmet ways—to protect your skin this summer. A new study from the Dermatology University of Sydney, in Australia, found that people who take vitamin B3 supplements cut their risk of skin cancer recurrence by 23 percent in just one year. Fortunately, some of the most popular backyard barbecue foods are also among the highest in B3 and other skin-saving nutrients. Here’s Eat This, Not That!’s exclusive list of what to toss on the grill this summer—and why you shouldn’t feel guilty about grabbing seconds.
A 6-ounce half-rack serving of ribs provides about 10 mg of B3, or half your daily value for the vitamin. However, you can get even more of the vitamin from leaner cuts of pork; a single pork chop has more than 15 mg of the vitamin.
Grill a fresh piece lightly on both sides (don’t overcook!) and you’ll have a B3 treasure trove; one small 3-ounce serving packs 110 percent of your daily value for the vitamin.
In a study in the journal Evolution & Human Behavior, researchers found that both blacks and Caucasians who had higher levels of melanin and carotenoid pigments in their skin not only had higher levels of protection from sunlight, but were judged by others as being healthier and more attractive, “establishing carotinoid coloration as…perceptible in a way that is relevant to mate choice.” And no, you won’t look like an Oompa Loompa. In fact, given the choice between a real suntan and a glow caused by diet, study participants preferred the carotenoid complexion. Carotenoids are found in orange and red vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. To grill carrots, cut them in half length-wise, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, and grill over low heat for 20 minutes.
When it comes to getting the most B3 for the lowest number of calories, chicken might be the best source of all. One half a roasted chicken breast contains 2/3 of your daily value for B3 for just 161 calories—as long as you’re modest with the barbecue sauce.
New research has found that the reason melanoma rates are so low in regions like the Mediterranean—where going topless on the beach is all part of the summertime fun—has to do with the Mediterranean diet. One study in the British Journal of Dermatology found participants who ate five tablespoons of tomato paste (a highly concentrated form of fresh tomatoes) daily showed 33 percent more protection against sunburn than a control group. But don’t just slice them up in a salad: A Cornell University study found that cooking boosts the amount of available lycopene, a disease-fighting antioxidant in tomatoes, by 35 percent.
Tuna and salmon get all the press, but the humble mackerel is among the richest sources of B3. One 3-ounce serving has nearly half your daily value, but mackerel also has more than twice as much inflammation-reducing, cancer-fighting omega-3 fatty acids as salmon.
Grilled guacamole? Absolutely. Halve the avocado lengthwise and remove the pit. Place directly on the grate of a hot grill, cut side down, and grill for about 5 minutes, until nice grill marks have developed. From here, you can cube the avocado for salad, mash it for a smoky guacamole, or fill each half with tuna or chicken salad for an incredible twist on the classic. A half an avocado has about 10 percent of your daily value of vitamin B3.
Half a pound of beef rib will give you a full day’s worth of B3. Other cuts to consider: sirloin, beef filet and tenderloin, all of which have more than 1/3 of your daily value in a mere 3-ounce serving.
One big Portobello cap gives you a third of your daily value of B3. While mushrooms have a high water content, they can dry out if grilled too long, so it’s best to grill them over a medium-high flame until lightly charred and just cooked through, about 12 minutes for whole portobellos. Or make individual mushroom packets by seasoning ½" chunks of mushrooms with olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. Enclose the veggies in foil packets and grill for 10 minutes.