Veggie burgers have been around a long time. From black bean burgers, to grain based burgers, the original idea of a veggie burger was to take the basics of a plant based diet and make it into patty form so it can be eaten a la burger. But with advances in food science, and the ability to extract the protein components of more and more foods, a new breed of plant based burger is upon us. These new burgers are closer to beef in color, texture and flavor. That may or may not be what you want.
These new breed of burgers are made of soy, pea and other plant proteins. Their fat comes from coconut oil and other plant oils. The meaty color and taste comes from a variety of ingredients, but the Impossible Burger touts its’ creation of plant based heme, a component of iron, for its’ color and umami, meaty flavor. Beyond Meat utilizes beet juice to mimic a cooked burger color. Each of these is closer in nutritional value to a beef burger’s protein and calories, and unfortunately in fat as well. Yes, these burgers have as much or more fat as a beef burger. Does that matter?
While many arguments can be made that some of the ingredients in these burgers may be healthier than the animal version, these are still “junk” foods or sometimes foods. They are processed foods, requiring the addition of sodium and other additives like methylcellulose to keep them fresh, tasty and in patty form. Foods like soy, peas, and beets are definitely foods we should all eat every day, but when they are processed to use in a variety of manufactured foods, they become more like a typical fast food. It’s wonderful that vegans and vegetarians now have more options to enjoy different foods at home and on the go, with friends at bbqs and ball parks, but don’t let the plant aspect fool you into thinking these are health foods. Eat your plant burgers in moderation! And have them with a salad!