The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Better Burger, No Bun

September 5th, 2009 · 6 Comments · Posted in Recipes, Wellness

A great burger does not need a bun

A great burger does not need a bun

If you are at all sensitive to carbohydrates, there’s no reason to spoil your Labor Day hamburger by smothering it in a bun. Nothing could be finer than a burger constructed of grass-fed beef from our local dairy, topped with grilled onion and a thick slice of Mortgage Lifter tomato from the garden. All we need is a green salad on the side to make this a meal.

Your body craves protein and fat. These are essential nutrients. You may be surprised to learn that carbohydrates are not. Many people are under the mistaken impression that we need carbohydrates for energy. The truth is, our body will do just fine without them. All carbohydrates turn into sugar (glucose) after you eat them. This triggers an insulin response and insulin is the hormone responsible for storing fat. Refined grains–such as those in breads and the bun you typically wrap your hamburger in–are among the worst things for you. They are quick to enter the bloodstream, causing a jolt of insulin.

Carbohydrates promote hunger and water retention. You may now see why grandmothers used to warn about eating too many starchy foods. But now, amid all the hysteria about fats beginning in the 1970s, the federal government actually urges Americans to eat less fat and more carbohydrates. Is it any wonder we are seeing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes?

Of course not everyone is especially sensitive to carbohydrates. I’ve lost a ton of weight by eliminating starchy foods and sugar from my diet. I can watch my weight spike just by eating a little from the carb side of the food ledger. That makes staying trim really tough during peak produce season, when the garden is groaning with big juicy tomatoes (about 6 grams of carbs in a 4-ounce tomato) and all kinds of fruit beckon at the farmers market (about 10 grams carbs in one peach).

For a great burger, keep it simple. Just buy the best grass-fed beef you can find, preferably from a local source. Avoid conventional beef grown in confinement operations and fed lots of grain. Mix the beef in a bowl with a generous splash of Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper. Form gently into patties. We flatten them in the middle, because they tend to plump up during cooking. If you don’t have a grill, sear them well on both sides in a heavy, greased skilled, then finish them off in a 350-degree oven.

We like to add a thick slice of mozzarella or Swiss cheese. Believe me, you will not miss the bun.

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  • valerierose

    I think it’s a little bit of a stretch to say carbs are really the worst thing for you. I’m no nutritionist, of course. And I agree that the 7-11 servings recommended by the old school food pyramid is too much. But I have a feeling that if I were to cut out carbs, I’d be underweight. Everyone has different nutritional needs. I tend to lose weight easily (I know, I shouldn’t complain) and have been underweight until the past few years. I crave carbs sometimes, especially if I’ve been very active. I try to stick to whole wheat, brown rice, and other carbs that haven’t had the fiber refined out of them. I need it to feel full and to keep my appetite up.

  • Ed Bruske

    Valerie, it may be a bit of a stretch for you, but it’s no stretch for me or–my guess–many millions of other people who have issues with carbs and insulin sensitivity. You may want to go back and read this post:

    In my book, grains are the worst. Whole grains are only marginally better. But as you say, everybody is different and makes their own choices. What I’ve said here before is, we need a national conversation on insulin.

  • Our Natural Life

    I think people like Valerie who tend to be underweight may lean toward a “carb” metabolic type and can handle more of that in their diets. Michael Eades claims there is no such thing as an “essential carbohydrate.” Jon and I need to limit the carbs to keep our weight and insulin response down. It’s important to make sure to add plenty of healthy fat such as butter or cream when you do eat the carbs. I can’t remember the last time I bought a burger bun, but it’s been years! Yours looks quite yummy, Ed. I have some grass fed ground beef thawed and will have to take a stab at it this weekend myself.

  • Ed Bruske

    Cathy, you are refering to Michael Eades, author of “Protein Power” and “The Protein Power Lifeplan.” Goofy titles, but lots of good science in there. Eades is a guiding light on the insulin issues. And, yes, it’s true: carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient, but they can be a very cheap source of calories, hence their centrality in the current epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

  • valerierose

    I read that post, and commented on it. It’s clear that there are major problems with the standard American diet, but I don’t think blaming any one part of it, whether it’s fat or carbs, is a complete picture.

  • Ed Bruske

    Valerie, I don’t think anyone has the complete picture, and I don’t think there’s any such thing as a standard American diet. We know more about the dark side of the moon that we do about what constitutes a perfect diet. But some of us have learned enough to not buy into the politically correct diet of the moment. Remember, the carbs we’re talking about were only introduced to humans 10,000 years ago, which might as well be yesterday in the span of 2.6 million years of evolution, hardly enough time to adapt to the stuff people are shoving down their gullet every day. And if you look around, you’ll see all kinds of forces arrayed to move you even further toward a plant-based, carb-heavy (e.g. meat- and dairy-free) diet. I’d wager that for a third Americans–let’s say 100 million–that’s highly problematic.