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Better Burgers

April 27, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The other night we had dinner at a restaurant where you build your own burger. Diners choose the type of meat they’d prefer, an extensive array of toppings and whether they want their burger on a bun or a bed of organic lettuce. You’re even in luck if you have special dietary needs as they offer gluten-free buns and vegetarian patties. These types of options are becoming more and more common these days as restaurateurs hope to reinvent hamburgers in a creative and, sometimes, healthier way. The latest trend in the attempt to “healthify” burgers is to add certain unexpected and, often, undetectable ingredients to the ground meat itself.

Presently, researchers at the University of Aberdeen are testing the effects of adding powdered beetroot to turkey burgers in order to make them healthier. Their hypothesis is that the antioxidants in beets will protect against some of the oxidation that occurs during the normal digestive process. According to Dr. Garry Duthie, a principal researcher in the ongoing experiment, “When we eat a fatty food, a process called oxidation occurs in our stomachs, where fats are transformed into potentially toxic compounds and absorbed into the body. These compounds are linked to cancer and heart disease”.

Fruit extracts or purees can also be used to improve the nutritional qualities of hamburgers. Recent experiments reveal that blueberries, cherries and even dried plums or prunes in small quantities (about 5%) can be added to ground meat to increase its antioxidant content. What’s more, these fruits impart flavor, moisture and significantly reduce the levels of probable carcinogens (heterocyclic aromatic amines) formed during the cooking process. Including savory spices in hamburgers such as garlic, oregano and paprika is another technique that can be employed. A study appearing in the May 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that burgers with supplemental spices protected against oxidative stress in both the ground meat patties and in the group of participants that ate them.

As it turns out, phytochemicals present in both culinary spices and so-called “super fruits” preserve meat while being stored, during the cooking process and once the finished product is processed in the body. The plant-based chemicals in question carry exotic names such as catechins, proanthocyanidins, and rosmarinic acid. But, how they function and what they accomplish is quite straightforward. And, as a bonus, when they’re included in prepared meals, these non-traditional ingredients may also support health by attenuating post meal changes in insulin and triglycerides. Now, all you have to do is add them to your recipes and spread the word in time for this year’s barbecue season. Together, we can make burgers healthier!

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Could Beetroot Be the Key to a Healthy Burger? (link)

Study 2 – Cherry Hamburgers Lower In Suspected Carcinogens (link)

Study 3 – Burger of the Future? Add Blueberries (link)

Study 4 – Antioxidant-Rich Spice Added to Hamburger Meat During(link)

Study 5 – A High Antioxidant Spice Blend Attenuates Postprandial Insulin (link)

Study 6 – Antioxidant Activity and Phenolic Content of Betalain Extracts (link)

Study 7 – Survey of Antioxidant Capacity and Phenolic Composition of (link)

Study 8 – Comparative Study of Phenolic Compounds and Antioxidant Activity (link)

Study 9 – Characterization and Antioxidative Properties of Oligomeric (link)

Study 10 – Oxidative Stability of Cooked, Frozen, Reheated Beef Patties (link)

Adding Spices to Ground Meat Reduces Oxidation (MDA) In Vivo

Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1180-4. (link)

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Posted in Food and Drink, Heart Health, Nutrition

8 Comments & Updates to “Better Burgers”

  1. rob Says:

    Im a fan of the bun-less burger myself

  2. JP Says:

    Me too, Rob. That’s the only way I eat my burgers.

    It’s cool to see that a few fast food joints and even some upscale restaurants offer non-bun options these days – mostly by request.

    The other night I had a bun-less burger with a side of “broccoli fries” – basic recipe below. I didn’t miss a thing. Delicious! 🙂


    Be well!


  3. Nina K. Says:

    Hiya JP ☺,

    oh what a nice idea: beets with or in the burger! i love combining beef and beets ♥ nice to read that it’s healthy too! Would add fresh cucumber slices and a horseradisch inspired sauce for the burger, tastes great!

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Sounds like a delicious combination, Nina! 🙂

    Be well!


  5. geos1991 Says:

    hi jp,
    one more thumb up for the “make it yourself” burger,pretty self explanatory and one of the best methods to enjoy some really healthy “junk food”.but, what i really want to ask you is about the confusion that exist in a variety of cooking methods.recently i started to research some different cooking methods that could offer the best results concerning the absorption of macronutrients.regarding grilling, i think is the most solid method when it comes to meat and (saw it from you ^^) some veggies like broccoli tomatoes etc.however, according to some research done to this there are claims grilling foods causes the production of Heterocyclic amines which are a very important factor carcinogenesis. and then, there is the recent raw-foodism trend which encourages consumption of raw ,unprocessed foods even foods like meet which may sound a bit logical in terms of thinking that our ancestors were feeding like that but recent studies indicate that consumption of raw foods (even in salads) may cause severe infections from paracites.reading stuff like that is really confusing for someone who is not an expert so i really value ur opinion towards different approaches in cooking including the use of olive oil in grilling or baking (is it really unhealthy? because i live in greece and the quality of oil that my family produces is extra virgin). i know this is alot of stuff to be answered via a comment and could the topic of a whole consultation but creats a lot of confusion and fear to me when i eat raw salads or grilled meat :(.thx a lot!

  6. JP Says:

    Hi Geos,

    Please take a look at the links I’ll post below. In my own diet, I include some raw foods (avocados, berries, ceviche, jicama, radishes, salads, sashimi, tomatoes, etc.). But, I don’t hesitate baking and cooking food at low-to-moderate heat. I incorporate the techniques I mention in the linked columns – added herbs, marinades, spices, etc.




    I cook with extra virgin olive oil frequently. If anything, it affords more protection than most other oils due to the naturally occurring antioxidants present in it.

    Be well!


  7. geos1991 Says:

    thx man!my bad for not seeing them in the site.keep the good work 🙂

  8. JP Says:

    Updated 10/01/18:


    Nutrients 2018, 10(10), 1388

    The Consumption of Beef Burgers Prepared with Wine Grape Pomace Flour Improves Fasting Glucose, Plasma Antioxidant Levels, and Oxidative Damage Markers in Humans: A Controlled Trial

    Wine grape pomace flour (WGPF) is a fruit byproduct that is high in fiber and antioxidants. We tested whether WGPF consumption could affect blood biochemical parameters, including oxidative stress biomarkers. In a three-month intervention study, 27 male volunteers, each with some components of metabolic syndrome, consumed a beef burger supplemented with 7% WGPF containing 3.5% of fiber and 1.2 mg gallic equivalents (GE)/g of polyphenols (WGPF-burger), daily, during the first month. The volunteers consumed no burgers in the second month, and one control-burger daily in the third month. At baseline and after these periods, we evaluated the metabolic syndrome components, plasma antioxidant status (i.e., 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl radical scavenging capacity (DPPH), vitamin E, vitamin C), and oxidative damage markers (i.e., advanced oxidation protein products (AOPPs), oxidized low-density lipoproteins (oxLDLs), malondialdehyde (MDA)). The WGPF-burger intake significantly reduced glycemia and homeostatic model assessment-based measurement of insulin resistance. Vitamin C increased and decreased during the consumption of the WGPF-burger and control-burger, respectively. The WGPF-burger intake significantly decreased AOPP and oxLDL levels. Vitamin E and MDA levels showed no significant changes. In conclusion, the consumption of beef burgers prepared with WGPF improved fasting glucose and insulin resistance, plasma antioxidant levels, and oxidative damage markers. Therefore, this functional ingredient has potential as a dietary supplement to manage chronic disease risk in humans.

    Be well!


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