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Healthy Lamb Burger Recipe

August 31, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The first Monday in September ushers in Labor Day in the United States. This is a federal holiday that celebrates the achievements of American workers and the establishment of the labor movement over 100 years ago. It also provides an extended three-day weekend for many families and a final opportunity to enjoy the long, hot days of summer. A familiar part of many Labor Day get-togethers is firing up the barbecue. Beef, turkey or “veggie” burgers top the list of grill-friendly candidates to serve at such occasions. But this year, I’m going to do something slightly different. Instead of the standard fare, lamb burgers are on the menu and with good reason.

Serving unconventional menu items at social gatherings is a great way to introduce your loved ones to a healthier way of eating. From an entertaining standpoint, it can also be a “hit” with guests. It shows that you’ve taken the time to prepare something special and unexpected. Many times, a particularly inventive and tasty dish can even become the talk of the party.

If all goes well, the primary conversation piece about your lamb burgers will be how delicious they taste. But you can provide the subtext on the health benefits they may also yield. For instance, the ground meat that I’m using in today’s recipe is from grass-fed animals which contain a higher level of CLA or conjugated linolenic acid than that found in conventionally raised lambs. This unique fatty acid has quite a lot of research supporting its utility as an antiobesity agent. (1,2,3)

Perhaps the greatest attribute of lamb meat is that it’s an abundant source of dietary protein. With so much talk about the value of fruits and vegetables, the importance of protein is sometimes neglected. So I want take a moment to review three recent studies that shine a positive light on what adequate protein can do for us:

  • The August 2010 issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reveals that additional protein in the diets of cyclists reduces symptoms of psychological stress and may be “worthwhile in the amelioration of the performance decline experienced during a block of high-intensity training”. (4)
  • “Consuming protein (including that from meat) higher than the current Recommended Dietary Allowance is beneficial to calcium utilization and bone health, especially in the elderly”. So says a publication appearing in the August 2010 edition of the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. (5)
  • Even a modest increase in protein intake of 1.6% can improve long term blood sugar management (HbA1c) in patients with type 2 diabetes. What’s important to note is that this positive effect was reported in diabetics who were already receiving drug treatment to manage their condition. (6)

Lamb is also an excellent dietary source of the mineral zinc. In fact, a typical 4 oz. serving of lamb contributes over 50% of the RDA of zinc. This trace mineral is most commonly and justifiably associated with immune system support. After all, zinc lozenges are one the top “go to” supplements during the cold and flu season. But modern science is also revealing that zinc-deficiency may play a role in cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, diabetes and even mood disorders. Also noteworthy is that diets which avoid red meat altogether are often deficient in zinc. (6,7,8,9,10)

Healthy Fellow Feta Lamb Burgers
1 pound ground, grass-fed lamb
3 ounces crumbled, goat feta cheese
2 cloves finely minced garlic
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp ground organic cumin
1/2 tsp ground organic coriander
freshly ground pepper
NutraSalt or salt to taste.

Healthy Fellow Garlic Yogurt Sauce
2 Tbs organic, extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves organic garlic
1/2 organic lemon
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
NutraSalt or salt and pepper to taste

Nutritional Content: Calories: 370. Protein: 31 grams. Fat: 27 grams. “Net” Carbohydrates: 3 grams. Fiber: 0 grams. Per burger with topping.

Combine all of the burger ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Gently fold the mixture together until it’s well incorporated. Separate it into 4 portions and form into patties. Cook on a hot grill for about 5 minutes on one side and then flip and cook for a couple of minutes on the other. The cooking time will vary based on the level of doneness you prefer.

Allow the Greek yogurt to come to room temperature. Peel the garlic and heat in a small pan with olive oil on a low setting until lightly golden. Remove the soft garlic and mince into a smooth paste. Combine the Greek yogurt, garlic and the garlic-infused olive oil in a bowl and mix well. Squeeze in the juice from the half lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Place a dollop of the mixture on top or on the side of the lamb burgers. Serve with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.

The Pros and Cons of Zinc
Source: Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2010 April; 7(4): 1342–1365. (a)

Some of the ingredients I added to the ground lamb act as double-agents. Sure they impart aromatic and complementary flavors to the burgers. But they also protect us from a chemical reaction that can occur when cooking meat on high heat. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are “mutagenic compounds formed during cooking muscle foods at high temperature”. A considerable amount of evidence suggests that a large intake of HCAs may increase the risk of developing numerous cancers. However, adding select herbs, oils and spices may reduce the formation of HCAs and thereby allow you to enjoy grilled meats without this potential danger. Extra virgin olive oil, parsley and rosemary are all scientifically documented as HCA inhibitors, most likely because of their natural antioxidant content. (11,12,13)

Whether you eat meat frequently or only on special occasions, it behooves you to choose the most nutritious candidates possible. Grass-fed lamb is an excellent choice worth considering. But like all other healthy foods, it can be made substantially more health promoting by adding the right ingredients and pairing it with nutritious sides. Mrs. Healthy Fellow and I enjoyed these lamb burgers with organic cucumber and tomato slices. This provided a fresh, clean counterpoint to the more assertive flavors found in the lamb burger and the savory yogurt topping. We hope you’ll find similar ways to enjoy and incorporate this recipe into your own wellness routine.

Be well!


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Posted in Nutrition, Recipes

4 Comments & Updates to “Healthy Lamb Burger Recipe”

  1. Mark S Says:

    The recipe sounds delicious. I just have to find a local source for lamb.

    Do the nutrition values include the topping and bun?

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Mark.

    The values include the topping but not the bun. We typically eat burgers without the buns. On occasion we use a special wheat-free, low carb bread as a substitute.

    Be well!


  3. Nina K. Says:

    Good morning, JP 🙂

    looks soooo delicius, love cooking. we had to eat in hotels and restaurants during the weekend, i hate it, i felt so baaah. we tried to eat low carb, worked ok, but we don’t use spices with msg etc. and i think that was used in the most dishes :-(. i hope that there will be enough healthy food choices on our holiday (we are flyin friday night to saturday).

    stay healthy ☺
    Nina K.

  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, Nina! 🙂

    There are certainly up sides and down sides to traveling. Sometimes the food options are superb and other times they’re quite slim. I hope you’ll find many delicious and nutritious options while on holiday. Have lots of fun and be safe!

    Be well!


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