18 May 2006
In Search of the Better Burger
By Eddie Burkhalter
JSU News Bureau
Hamburgers are part of
Americana, and a long-time favorite with students on-the-go, including those
at Jacksonville State University. But concern over health and the nutrient
content of their favorite meal has some JSU students changing the way they
think of their beloved beef.
"I do worry about how unhealthy burgers
are for me," says JSU freshman Erica Howard. "So I try and only eat them two
or three times a week."
Is there a way to make burgers healthier? How about adding seaweed?
Scientists at the University of
Newcastle have examined the properties of brown-colored seaweed called
Lessonia and Laminaria, found in the Far East, South America and parts of
Norway and Scotland. By removing some of the fat of a burger and replacing it
with the extract from the seaweed, scientists believe it can slow digestion
and greatly boost the burger's fiber content without changing the
If a seaweed burger sounds a bit too much, try a different meat.
Leaner cuts of meat are a healthier choice. For variety, make burgers
with lean ground beef, veal, chicken or turkey. Increase the nutrient value
by adding finely minced carrots, celery and onions to the mixture; bind with
some bread crumbs or matzo meal. Be careful not to over-handle the mixture or
your burgers will be tough.
JSU's Dr. Tim Roberts, associate professor of family and consumer sciences,
says good old-fashioned safe cooking is still the soundest advice, no matter
which meat you select.
"You need to make sure the meat is cooked to an internal temperature of
160 degrees," Roberts said. "This is essential in removing all of the
harmful organisms, such as e coli."
Here are some other tips:
The manner in which a burger is prepared can be as
unhealthy as the fat content. Grilled meat contains known and suspected
carcinogens. While it has not been firmly established whether it contains
enough to significantly increase your risk of cancer, many health researchers
are taking the better-safe-than-sorry approach.
- When making a beef burger, use lean beef and cut the amount in half;
then fill it with vegetables, tomatoes and lettuce.
- Sear all vegetable
burgers over high heat first to lock in moisture.
- To keep turkey and
veggie burgers juicy, don't press down on the patties while cooking.
- Instead of hamburger rolls, try pita pockets or English muffins.
- Spruce up
your burger with greens (experiment with arugula and watercress,
if available) and mustard, salsas or chutneys. Consider trying a sauce of
nonfat sour cream plus mustard, which add flavor without adding fat.
- When making a turkey burger, look for ground turkey made from white
breast meat. Dark turkey meat may contain skin and commonly contains as much
fat as ground beef.
Grilled meats produce
at least two types of potentially dangerous chemicals: polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). PAHs are formed from
imperfect combustion found in smoke and burned matter. In large enough
quantities they can cause cancer in humans. In barbecue grills they
are formed by dripping fat that flares up, charring the underside of the
HCAs are the result of reactions between chemicals in muscle meat produced by
high heat or prolonged cooking. Unlike PAHs, HCAs are found inside the meat.
Also unlike PAHs, HCAs are not more likely to be produced during grilling.
They can be produced in an oven or a frying pan if the heat is too high.
Here are some tips that may help reduce the risk:
For more information on cooking healthy hamburgers, go to
and type "hamburgers" in the search box.
- Do not overcook your food.
- Avoid flare-ups by not placing your food directly over coals
- Cook at lower temperatures.
- Cut away blackened bits.
- Microwave meat for one or two minutes before grilling to
reduce the chemicals that produce HCAs.
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