They might be better for the environment, but are plant-based burgers good for you?
Plant-based meat alternatives, such as meatless burgers, are becoming more readily available in supermarkets and restaurants, giving consumers options that promote sustainability while mitigating climate change.
These plant-based burgers include ingredients that try to imitate the flavor, aroma and even the color of red meat. According to its website, one company is able to achieve its uniquely “meaty” flavour by genetically modifying heme, an iron-containing molecule from soy plants.
Are meatless burgers just a fad?
The plant-based protein industry’s growth is fueled by the increasing number of people choosing vegetable-based alternatives like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger.
Beyond Burger’s parent company, Beyond Foods, went public in May, 2019, and was considered one of the top performing initial public offerings in almost twenty years. Growing acceptance that their meat alternatives taste and cook just like a meat-based burger is the key to their success.
“To us, the vegans and vegetarians are already on the right path and have chosen sustainable eating habits, so it was really important for us to we are able to convert meat eaters with a product that tastes like meat, cooks like meat and made entirely from plants,” says Esther Cohn, Communications Operations Specialist at Impossible Foods.
Healthy, sustainable eating recommendations are beginning to appear in various governmental guidelines and recent studies have shown that dietary change can play a significant role in reducing the impact of agriculture on global warming potential, land and water use. 1
Eating meatless burgers solely for their health value? You may want to reconsider
Compare the following:
- Impossible Burger: 240 calories, and 8g of saturated fat from coconut oil, 0 cholesterol, 19g of protein from soy, 370 mg of sodium
- 80% lean beef burger: 280 calories and 9g of saturated fat, 19 – 21g of protein, 65 – 75 mg sodium
- Beyond Burger: 250 calories and 6g saturated fat, 20g of protein from peas, 390 mg of sodium
- Turkey burger: 220 -240 calories (depending on the brand) and 4 to 5g of saturated fat, 19 – 21g of protein, 95 – 115 mg sodium.
- Grain-based veggie burger: 150 to 160 calories, and 1 gram of saturated fat, 9 grams of protein, 400mg sodium
There is not a whole lot of difference in the amount of fat between the Impossible Burger and the real beef burger, but the faux-meat burgers and grain-based veggie burger contain more sodium than the beef and turkey burgers.
While it doesn’t taste like beef, and contains the least amount of protein, the grain-based burger is the healthiest choice from a fat standpoint. It is made with real veggies, like onions, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, green and red bell peppers, quinoa and brown rice.
Continue to enjoy plant-based burgers If you prefer the taste, or if you are a vegetarian or proponent of sustainability. However, if you’re eating them to reduce calories, sodium, or saturated fat, you may want to reconsider your decision.
1 “Eat as If You Could Save the Planet and Win! Sustainability Integration into Nutrition for Exercise and Sport” Nanna Meyer and Alba Reguant-Closa, Retrieved 23 August 2019. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409751/>
“Plant-Based Proteins on the Rise, Plus DIY Beet Burger Recipe” Lisa Kivirist, Retrieved 23 August 2019. <https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/plant-based-proteins-diy-beet-burger-recipe-zbcz1906>.
“They might be better for the planet, but are plant-based burgers good for you?” Lisa Drayer, CNN, Retrieved 23 August 2019. <https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/09/health/plant-fake-meat-burgers-good-for-you-or-not/index.html>.
Marsha Fenwick, C.N.P. R.R.T.
Marsha is not your typical nutritionist. She began her career 20 years ago as a Registered Respiratory Therapist. Later, she earned her certifications as a Registered Nutritional Consultant Practitioner, Certified Nutritional Practitioner, and Registered Orthomolecular Health Practitioner. Marsha is also a Certified Cancer Coach. Her clinical practice specializes in: sustainable healthy weight loss, digestive health, women's hormones, diabetes, heart health, and cancer prevention and recovery. For more information and to book a FREE 15 minute consultation go to Marsha Fenwick Nutrition.