Sorry vegans and veggie-burger lovers, you’re not going to like this. I believe hamburgers are the perfect food. I mean hamburgers from REAL, red meat from grass-grazed cattle raised sustainably.
Why is hamburger the perfect food? Let’s talk beef first.
Beef gets slammed as the “red meat” that is often considered unhealthy. But much depends on the source of the beef that determines whether it is ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. We will get into the grass fed vs. conventionally-raised meat in a bit.
Why is beef so perfect?
Beef contains “heme” iron which is much more easily assimilated in the body, than iron that comes from plants. Heme iron is a form of iron that humans can absorb very efficiently, and it also helps the body absorb non-heme iron from plant-based foods. One study even found meat as being more effective than iron tablets at maintaining iron levels in women during exercise.
Beef also contains zinc, selenium, choline (vital for liver health), vitamin B12 (only available from animal sources), and vitamin B6, along with vitamins A and E.
Meat is not just high in protein. It is also a source of many nutrients that are simply not available in plants. Meat provides vitamin B12 (only available from animal sources), a highly absorbable type of iron, essential amino acids, zinc, selenium, omega 3 fatty acids, EPA, DHA, vitamin D, and vitamin K2–none of which are found in plant foods.
Now, let’s discuss grass fed beef vs conventional beef. Conventionally raised cattle are finished on a diet of corn, kept in crowded, filthy pens and are generally in poor health. Their diet of grain makes them high in inflammatory omega 6 fats and low in healthier omega 3 fats. Conventional cattle are often pumped full of antibiotics and steroid hormones which are known to help them pack on the weight quickly. Overall, conventional beef is a far different animal than grass fed beef and can hardly be compared.
Grass fed and grass finished beef are raised in their natural environment, eating their natural diet. This means they have far fewer health problems and do not need hormones or antibiotics to fight disease or make them gain weight. They are raised in sunlight and natural pastures making their environment far healthier and far less stressful.
Grass fed beef has a different fat profile than conventional beef. Grass fed beef can have up to 5X the amount of omega 3 fatty acids as conventionally-raised beef. Omega 3 fatty acids lower inflammation, and have been found to help prevent heart disease, strokes, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis. Omega 3 fats also help prevent Alzheimer’s, depression and anxiety, as well as ADHD.
Grass fed meat has lower levels of saturated fat compared to grain fed beef and it contains a very important type of fat called “conjugated linoleic acid”. CLA is a potent cancer fighting compound. CLA has slowed the growth of an unusually wide variety of tumors, including cancers of the skin, breast, prostate, and colon.
Grass fed cattle contain three to five times more CLA than conventionally-raised meat. In a Finnish study, women who had higher levels of CLA in their diets had a 60% lower risk of breast cancer than women who had low levels of CLA.
Grass fed beef contains more antioxidants, pound for pound than conventionally-raised meat.
Beef contains all the amino acids your body needs to synthesize protein. It’s a very high quality source of protein. Body builders and weekend warriors alike eating plenty of beef find they easily build muscle and lower their risk of injury. Beef also contains beta-alanine, an amino acid that helps create carnosine. Carnosine is vital to the muscle power and increases your ability to perform high intensity exercise.
Eating more protein—not less—is essential not only to good health, but also in keeping blood sugar low and preventing diabetes and obesity. Meat is one of the highest quality sources of protein.
So that brings us to burgers. The ubiquitous burger. They are certainly not all the same.
And that leads me to my controversial statement: “Burgers are the most perfect food.”
We all know burgers can be delicious. They are incredibly adaptable. And ground beef can be one of the most economical cuts of meat—even grass fed ground beef.
Burgers are great plain, but they can become a masterpiece of your culinary skills and creativity, depending on what you add—or subtract—from them.
First of all, I’d recommend you ditch the doughy bun. Grains are inflammatory and not Paleo, although you can find grain-free buns. Even better, eat your burger with a lettuce wrap for a bun—or try a collard green wrap for some extra nutrition—just blanch first to make the collards easier and more tender.
You can also drastically boost the nutrition power of your beef by adding in some liver, beef heart or kidney. Chop in the food processor and mix in your ground beef and you won’t even taste it—you’ll just get all the massive health benefits.
Use healthy condiments. Some delicious avocado mayo, sugar free catsup, whole ground mustard, jalapenos, avocado, sliced sweet onion, sautéed mushrooms, and a fresh, ripe, juicy sliced tomato are great ways to up your burger game. Pile on those fun toppings. Don’t forget fun toppings like sauerkraut, kimchi, coleslaw or baby greens.
The sky’s the limit! High quality burger toppings make for a higher quality burger.
And last but not least, don’t forget the bacon, a good quality grass fed cheese, or even an egg for some extra protein.
You can create a different burger theme every night of the week! Enjoy that delicious, perfect, juicy grass fed burger!