How Nutritious are popular plant-based burgers?

burger

By:  Marisa Morales, Healthy Aggies Nutrition Peer Counselor

Veggie burger patties have been around for quite some time. They are generally consumed by those who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Jumping ahead to the present, a new version of plant-based burgers has become a popular alternative for regular burgers. This version of plant-based patties tastes, smells, and looks similar to a meat-based patty which is why it is favored among many. The familiar “bleeding” seen in meat-based burgers, and now in plant-based burgers, is all thanks to the molecule “heme”. Although the idea of consuming a plant-based burger rather than a meat patty would appear to be a healthier alternative, the nutrition facts do not support this assumption.

Many people would like to believe that these meat-mimicking burgers are healthy (or healthier) for our bodies than regular burgers because they are entirely composed of plants. However, what most people do not understand is the amount of processing that must be done to achieve the almost-identical characteristics as an animal burger.

Although the Beyond Burger is made without GMOs, soy or gluten, the ingredient list is quite long: “Water, Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Rice Protein, Natural Flavors, Cocoa Butter, Mung Bean Protein, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Apple Extract, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vinegar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Lecithin, Pomegranate Fruit Powder, Beet Juice Extract (for color)”. The Impossible Burger is another popular plant-based burger with a lengthy ingredient list: “Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.”

The following shows us the comparison between the Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, and a regular grass-fed beef burger:

Beyond Burger (4 oz. serving) Impossible Burger (4 oz. serving) Grass-fed beef burger (4 oz. serving)
Calories 250 240 224
Total fat 18 g 14 g 17 g
Saturated fat 6 g 8 g 6 g
Protein 20 g 19 g 21 g
Total carbs 3 g 9 g 0 g
Sodium 390 mg 370 mg 77 mg

Studies have shown that following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle reduces risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. To clarify, the participants in these studies did not eat plant-based meat. Instead, their diet consisted of lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The point I would like you all to take away from this post is the importance of reading food labels. Corporate marketing teams do a fantastic job at designing catchy phrases and pictures to promote their product. You may see a box of “salt-free” crackers or “sugar-free” doughnuts, but until you look at the ingredient list and nutrition facts you cannot be certain of what you are consuming. Sometimes, nutrients, such as salt or sugar, are extracted from food and replaced with something else for it to taste, look, and smell just like the original product. It is often the case that this “something else” is not much healthier. Take a look at your food labels at home, what you find may surprise you!

Sources:

https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/a29133293/is-plant-based-meat-healthy/

https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/healthy-tips/2019/09/is-plant-based-meat-healthy-for-you

 

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