Hamburgers have a bad reputation. High in fat and calories, they may be the first food scratched off your menu when you decide to eat healthy. Before you rule out hamburgers for good, take a look at some of the health benefits they can deliver. If eaten only on occasion, hamburgers, especially those made with lean ground beef, can boost your health rather than impair it.
Beef is high in a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. In 1978, scientists at the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin found that grilled hamburger extract contained compounds that fought cancer growth. That compound turned out to be CLA. Today, CLA is known for more benefits, including the ability to fight inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, and to promote weight loss and prevent weight gain. To get the most out of your hamburger, choose beef from grass-fed or free-range animals, as opposed to grain-fed animals. The March 2010 issue of "Nutrition Journal" reports that grass-fed beef has a higher CLA content, but lower overall fat content.
Every cell in your body contains protein, which makes it vital for good health. It is constantly broken down and replaced and therefore needs to be continually taken in through diet. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a 3-ounce burger made with 90 percent lean ground beef contains 21.4 grams of protein, or roughly 43 percent of the recommended daily intake of 50 grams.
Hamburgers contain several vitamins, most of which belong to the B family. The B vitamins are needed to turn food into energy and for the development of red blood cells. The most abundant B vitamin in hamburgers is vitamin B-12, with 2.5 micrograms, which is 100 percent of the recommended daily intake for adults. Though all B vitamins are essential for good health, a deficiency of B-12 can cause serious side effects such as anemia, numbness, weakness and central nervous system problems such as foggy thinking and loss of balance. Other B vitamins in hamburgers include B-6, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, thiamin and folate. Hamburgers also contain trace amounts of vitamins E and K.
Hamburgers are packed full of minerals, with zinc being the most abundant. A 3-ounce burger contains 5.4 milligrams of zinc, or 36 percent of the daily value established by the USDA, according to the National Institutes of Health. Zinc plays several roles in the body, including aiding the formation of blood cells, supporting metabolism and boosting the immune system. Other beneficial minerals in hamburgers include selenium, phosphorous, iron, potassium, magnesium, sodium, copper, calcium and a trace of manganese and fluoride.
- University of Wisconsin: Food Research Institute Newsletter
- Nutrition Journal: A Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-Fed and Grain-Fed Beef
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Beef, ground, 90 percent lean, patty
- NIH: Medline Plus: Dietary Proteins
- NIH: Medline Plus: Vitamin B12
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Zinc
A certified nutritionist who majored in health, fitness and nutrition, Traci Vandermark has been writing articles in her specialty fields since 1998. Her articles have appeared both online and in print for publications such as Simple Abundance, "Catskill Country Magazine," "Birds and Blooms," "Cappers" and "Country Discoveries."