Who doesn't crave a juicy burger in the summer? Well, how's this for good news: You can turn that protein-packed patty into a true superfood with the right toppings, says Elizabeth H. Jeffery, PhD, a food, science and nutrition researcher at the University of Illinois. Sink your teeth into the yummiest health food ever.
Get a bun with benefits
The fiber found in whole grains reduces your risk of colon cancer. The very best grains? "Whole wheat and rye," says Julie Miller Jones, PhD, a professor emeritus of nutrition at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Look for whole wheat or rye buns that list whole wheat or whole grain as the first ingredient, Jones says.
Pile on the 'shrooms
White button mushrooms bolster immune health, slowing tumor development, according to a study from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. And portobellos hold as many antioxidants — which fight the free radicals that can cause cancer — as red peppers or carrots, Pennsylvania State University research suggests.
Mix dried rosemary into your food before grilling — it boosts flavor and contains compounds that were found to fight cancer, according to a Kansas State University study.
Go dark green
Pass up pale iceberg for dark leafy greens like arugula. They're rich in compounds called glucosinolates which, when chewed, break down into phytochemicals that may help prevent breast cancer, a new Boston University School of Medicine study shows.
Don't hold the onions
They boast allyl sulfides, compounds that have been shown to protect against endometrial cancer in laboratory studies.
Pick the right patty
Your healthiest bet is to go for the leanest, lowest-fat meats you can find, says Bethany Thayer, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Look for beef that's at least 90 percent lean, and ground chicken and turkey that's breast only, so you're not getting fatty dark meat or skin. And stick to a patty that's three ounces when cooked (that's about the size of your palm, and only slightly bigger when raw).
Squirt on some ketchup
Sure, a tomato slice will add some lycopene — a potent cancer-fighting antioxidant — to your burger. But for the best benefits against the big C, add ketchup too, Jeffery says. Use a tablespoon of the darkest-red, lowest-salt, lowest-sugar ketchup you can find — and go organic. An Agricultural Research Service study found that organic ketchup has 50 percent more lycopene than conventional brands.