If you are vegetarian, vegan or are just wanting to eat less meat, you might have heard of Beyond Meat or the Impossible Burger. These plant-based burgers are becoming more popular and even some well-known food chains like Burger King, Red Robin, and White Castle are offering them on the menu. But are these foods as healthy as they are made out to be?
Beyond Meat products are made of yellow pea protein isolates. These are made by breaking down the yellow pea itself through numerous processes. Sounds healthy right? But it’s not that simple. It is similar to brown rice- when the outer layer is polished to create white rice, our bodies digest the carbohydrates much quicker and it turns into a simple carb as opposed to the original complex carb. This is why white rice is not as healthy for you.
The Impossible Burger is made of water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil and natural flavors. It even has a special ingredient that gives it the illusion of “bleeding” like real meat- soy leghemoglobin, which is found in the roots of soybean plants.
Both of these meat alternatives are technically processed foods, and diets higher in processed foods can be linked to numerous diseases. Dietician Amanda Lapidus says that while plant-based burgers can create more variety for those seeking meat alternatives, they should only be used occasionally. “Would I eat it every day? No. Would I eat a burger every day? No, I wouldn’t. This is the same thing,” she says.
As defined by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, ultra-processed foods are those that “go through multiple processes (extrusion, molding, milling, etc.), contain many added ingredients and are highly manipulated.” Foods in this category include hot dogs, chicken nuggets, sweetened breakfast cereals, ice cream, chocolate and also Beyond Burgers.
Michael Rogers, a food scientist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada is quoted as saying, “We’ve created a whole new form of malnutrition that, from an evolutionary perspective, didn’t exist until a hundred years ago. There is no anthropological evidence to suggest Type 2 diabetes. There’s no anthropological evidence that suggests that diseases like metabolic syndrome even existed a hundred years ago. And that is a direct consequence of the ultra-processing of our foods. These consumers are blindly purchasing foods that they think are healthy because they associate it with a plant. But once that food has been processed, it doesn’t matter if it came from a plant, or a piece of cardboard- the whole food is gone.”
Another thing to consider is sodium. There is a significantly larger amount of sodium in these meat substitutes, as seen the chart below, and they do not have more protein than real meat.
This doesn’t mean that all vegetarian burgers are bad. There are plenty of healthier versions, ones that are made out of whole foods like quinoa, brown rice, chickpeas or black beans, for example. Some restaurants, like Red Robin even offer these types of vegetarian burgers.
At GOLO we believe that foods closest to their natural state are best for you. Not only are they healthier but your body knows how to digest these real, whole foods. If you are trying to eat more plant-based foods but aren’t a complete vegetarian or vegan, we suggest you enjoy the real thing (beef, bison, turkey etc.) burger rather than a processed burger. While the choice is yours, we wanted to give you our perspective.
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