According to Yahoo News, “Americans consume an average of 2.4 burgers per day according to the USDA, which is about 50 billion burgers per year.”
That’s a lot of beef.
But what about those people at the backyard BBQ who don’t eat meat?
Cue the Impossible Burger, entirely plant-based food with the consistency, taste, and appeal of its cow-derived counterpart.
What is plant-based meat made from?
Depending upon the brand, plant-based meat substitutes vary in terms of the ingredients. But typically, a “burger” may consist of soy, peas, beans, oats, and fats like coconut oil.
According to Business Insider, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods use soy and pea protein concentrate in their products.
The amount of protein from a single serving of a Beyond Meat burger (20 grams) is relatively on par with four ounces of lean ground beef (22 grams).
Animal protein contains all of the essential amino acids needed by the human body while a singular plant protein source like soy or pea on its own does not. So it’s typical to see pre-packaged plant-based foods contain multiple sources of protein.
Is Plant-based Meat Healthy?
Boston-area sports dietitian and author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Nancy Clark, MS, RD, says that she believes like the traditional Cheeseburger, even plant-based burgers must be consumed in moderation.
And Clark added that the Impossible Burger or products from Beyond Meat do not rank highly on her shortlist of recommendations for a vegan diet.
“If someone is a vegetarian, I think of nuts, beans, lentils, quinoa, foods closer to the earth,” Clark said. “This is manufactured.”
According to her, consumers of foods presenting themselves as meat substitutes may not be getting the trace minerals or ingesting the bioactive compounds that enhance the absorption of trace minerals into the body as they would from actual meat.
“Is the nutrient profile exactly the same,” Clark said. “Doubtful.”
Clark’s assessment feels ironic because the sodium content of a Beyond Meat burger appears to be exponentially higher than that of lean ground beef:
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Nutrition Facts: <br><br>Beyond Meat "Plant-Based" Burger vs. 90% Lean Beef Burger…<a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%24BYND&src=ctag&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>$BYND</a> <a href=”https://t.co/yuKLnXc96E”>pic.twitter.com/yuKLnXc96E</a></p>— Charlie Bilello (@charliebilello) <a href=”https://twitter.com/charliebilello/status/1153386126293504000?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>July 22, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Beyond Meat offers pre-packaged meat substitutes beyond burgers such as breakfast sausages and meatballs, which Clark says are all processed foods because of the nature of their manufacturing and ingredients.
Examples of processed foods include:
- Crackers and chips
- Candy or ice cream
- Frozen, microwaveable meals
- Breakfast cereals
The following chart from Harvard Health shows how the newer, meatless burgers stack up nutritionally against beef burgers, turkey burgers, and black bean burgers too.
Besides eating in moderation, Clark says she does see the value of a vegetarian eating one Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat patty at a backyard BBQ. Having some form of protein versus none of it at all and to fit in socially with the rest of the crowd stand out to her as the benefits.
Don’t forget, while a plant-based burger seems convenient for anyone looking into embracing the vegan lifestyle, eating a variety of plant-based foods closer to the earth seems like the best bet.
Always opt for whole foods, which are not processed. Consider quinoa and lentils as sources of protein packed with fiber.
Former Ohio State quarterback and a first-round draft pick by the Chicago Bears in the 2021 NFL Draft, Justin Fields says he adopted a vegan diet, which helped him to shed bodyweight and improve his performance on the field:
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When asked about Fields’ claims, Clark says she would want to know more about Fields’ eating habits before he adopted a plant-based diet.
“I think that’s the power of the mind,” Clark said. “For that person who switched to a plant-based diet, what were they eating before?”
For individuals who choose to eat vegan, Clark says it’s a drastic change, and any benefits may have to do less with no longer eating meat and more with what new foods are introduced.
“When people make a switch like [to plant-based], they change a lot of things,” Clark said. “We know that when you have more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, it feeds the microbiome and has a direct impact on something like your mood.”
Also, consider how plant-based burgers require less water and generate substantially less greenhouse gas emissions compared with traditional beef burgers.
Choosing plant-based is a consideration for the well-being of our planet, even though it may not be the best option for the health of our bodies.