Burgers are usually vilified here in their homeland. And rightfully so, if we’re talking about the common fare sold by the fast food chains peppered throughout America and the rest of the world. These burgers are full of questionable ingredients and way too much sodium.
It’s true that the word “burger” conjures up images of takeaway meals, obesity, and warnings from food documentaries.
But not all burgers are created equal. In fact, they can actually be a surprisingly healthy food if you know where to look for them (for example, take a look at our guide to guilt-free burgers), and what to avoid.
Where Are Your Burgers From?
In a way, McDonald’s is responsible for making this simple food item a household name throughout the world.
Unfortunately, this same company serves up a burger that doesn’t decompose over time. It’s an item that used to contain an ingredient called, “red slime” – a filler made up of random cow bits.
The meat used for McDonald’s and other fast-food chains comes from animals that have had very unhappy lives. These factory cows live in crowded, dirty conditions. They’re given insane amounts of antibiotics and medications. And they’re fed a diet heavy in grains when they’re meant to graze freely out in the pastures!
Needless to say, the quality of the meat used in most fast food burgers is poor at best and dangerous at its worst.
Is Red Meat Bad for You?
Red meat has been subject to many unjust accusations in recent food history. We’ve blamed heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol and impotence on red meat. But illness is much more complicated than that, and there’s much more to these health conditions that a diet that includes red meat.
Obviously, we should eat a balanced diet, with a variety of foods. But consuming high-quality red meat in the right amounts can be beneficial to your health.
Red meat isn’t the problem. It’s the way livestock is treated that turns red meat into a threatening food.
What’s Wrong with Conventional Ground Beef?
Dr. Mercola clears the record on red meat by shedding light on the agricultural practices that continue to have detrimental effects on beef. For example, the common, grain-based diet cows consume makes them more susceptible to illness. So, to combat this, they’re given lots of antibiotics to keep the disease at bay.
Additionally, cows are given growth hormones and steroids so that they can be butchered as soon as possible.
From a business standpoint, these dietary and medical choices make perfect sense. The problem is that when we eat such low-quality meat, we also consume the antibiotics, growth hormones and steroids that cows are given.
What’s worse, conventional ground beef often contains superbugs, which are resistant to antibiotics. Any burger made with this kind of beef is bad for you!
Burgers Made with Grass Fed Beef Are Best
Grass-fed, organic beef isn’t a cheap solution, but it does carry far more benefits than its conventional counterpart. For example, you get healthy omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the proper ratio.
It’s also an excellent source of Vitamin B, an extremely important nutrient. Beef also provides iron, magnesium, and calcium, as well as coenzyme Q10, which is necessary for a healthy cardiovascular system.
Finally, we actually need the saturated fats that are often shunned and avoided in ground beef. These fats play an important role in boosting the immune system, strengthening our bones, and giving our cells energy.
In short, beef can be a wonderful source of vital nutrients. We just have to make sure we’re consuming high-quality beef, such as grass-fed, organic meat.
Let’s Talk About Toppings
Now that we’re straight on the best meat for your burger, let’s talk about toppings. Because even the healthiest burger can become a calorie-laden dinner, depending on the condiments covering it.
And there are so many to choose from! Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, horseradish, bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, sautéed mushroom, onions, and peppers. Then there’s tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, bacon, and barbecue sauce. And then, let’s not forget the bun!
It’s easy to see how your burgers can go from nutrient-dense to calorie-packed. Sauces and condiments can be high in both salt and sugar. And it goes without saying that cheese and bacon rev up the fat content, and shoot your caloric intake higher than necessary.
So, at your next barbecue or cookout, just remember that the simpler your burger is, the healthier it is, too.
Healthy Burger Recipes
Nothing guarantees a nutritious burger better than when you make it yourself. Then, you know exactly which ingredients you’re consuming. Plus, you can keep additives, flavorings, and preservatives out of your beef.
Here are some creative and guilt-free ways to enjoy your burger:
- Skip the bun, and instead, load up on a side salad.
- Conventional mayonnaise isn’t the healthiest of toppings, so make your own mayonnaise, or add avocado slices. Both are quick and easy ways to enjoy the creamy flavor without missing that old, store-bought spread.
- Try adding Greek yogurt, sour cream or hummus to your bun or burger. These are nutritious, contain fewer ingredients and taste great to boot.
- If you love ketchup but want to cut back on all that sugar, you can whip up your own tomato spread. After you try this alternative, you’ll probably never buy ketchup again.
- Add chopped carrots, onions and bell peppers to your meat mix like this recipe This beefs up your burger (pun intended), adds lots of nutritional value, and boosts the flavor exponentially.
- Veer from the standard American burger, and head east with this Asian infused burger. Sesame seeds, soy sauce, cabbage, and hoisin sauce switch things up without adding calories, making this a healthy and delicious option.
- Take the lazy approach to burgers, and try making Refined Sugar Free Sloppy Joe’s. You can even make your own homemade ketchup and barbecue sauce to cut back on sugars. And when you add in spices like chili and paprika, you’ve got a mouthwatering meal in under thirty minutes.
There’s so much more to burgers than fast food fare. With high-quality beef and smart toppings, your burger can be the healthiest meal on the block this summer.