Since the Beyond Burger launched and skyrocketed in popularity recently, a common question keeps popping up. ‘But is it healthy?’.
Since there are no animal products in it, what the heck is the burger made of?
Here are the official ingredients: 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).
To break it down, these ingredients include proteins (pea, rice and mung bean), a couple of oils to replicate the ‘fatty’ flavour of burgers made from animals, vinegar and lemon juice to help with stabilization, and pomegranate and beet juice for color. In most cases, I advise my clients to choose a food with the least amount of ingredients (and also ones that you can pronounce), but not in the case of a Beyond Burger vs. a beef burger. The one ingredient in a beef burger packs a punch that you want to avoid, for so many reasons.
So is it good for me?
The Beyond Burger is considered a processed food, because it has been altered from its original state. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be part of a healthy diet. To me, a healthy diet is mostly whole food plant based foods, with a few ‘treats’ here and there (depending on any health conditions you may also have, of course). A Beyond Burger is a nice ‘every-once-in-awhile-treat’. And if you’re at the grocery store trying to decide between this burger or a beef burger, your better choice is the Beyond Burger.
Let’s do a comparison. The Beyond Burger vs. Schneider’s Country Naturals Beef Burger. Calorie-wise, the beef burger is higher, as it has 330 cal per serving vs. 250 cal per serving for the Beyond Burger. The beef burger also has more total fat; 27 g vs. 18 g. When you break down the total fat, the beef burger has a whopping 12 g of saturated fat, while the Beyond Burger has 6 g. The beef burger also has 1 g of trans fat while the Beyond Burger has zilch. Here’s another biggie; the Beyond Burger has 0 cholesterol, while the beef burger has 70 mg. Cholesterol is important for our bodies, which is why it makes all it needs on its own. We do not need to be (and should not be) consuming it in our food. Trans and saturated fats, along with dietary cholesterol (all of which are mostly found in animal products), contribute to our #1 killer – heart disease.
Each of the burgers have the same amount of sodium (aka salt), similar amounts of carbs but the Beyond Burger has 2 g of fibre, while the beef burger has nada. As a population, we don’t consume near enough fibre. And to answer another popular question I hear, ‘Where do you get your protein?’…the Beyond Burger has more protein than the beef burger; 20 g vs. 18 g. Lastly, the Beyond Burger has more iron and calcium than the beef burger.
After taking a look at this comparison, the Beyond Burger is definitely not a ‘health food’, but would be the healthier choice between the two burgers.
So should I eat these burgers?
As evidenced by the popularity of the Beyond Burgers, at both grocery stores and fast food establishments, nowadays people are open to trying plant-based food and reducing their animal consumption. As a Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach (soon-to-be Nutritionist) I would love it if people were able to snap their fingers and change to fully plant-based (and vegan!) overnight. But I know that’t not realistic for most people (myself included!). It took me a couple of years to fully transition to living a vegan lifestyle, and eating completely plant-based. I learned a whole lot along the way (but that’s another post for another time…).
People choose to reduce their animal consumption for various reasons. It could be for their health, animal welfare or the environment (for me, it’s been all three, but mostly animal welfare). As Beyond Meat states on their website, “Our belief is that the best way to get people to eat less meat is by giving them what they love–in this case, a juicy delicious burger – without so many of the health, sustainability, and animal welfare downsides of a traditional animal-based burger.” These burgers are not aimed at those that already eat plant-based, but those that are finding it difficult to transition away from animal products. To me, they act as a sort of ‘bridge’; a product to help with this change, as well as an occasional ‘treat’ for those already plant-based.
Please remember: just because something is ‘plant-based’ or ‘vegan’, doesn’t mean it’s automatically a ‘health food’ (same with ‘gluten-free’, ‘keto’, etc.). There’s a whole lot of processed vegan junk food out there (just like there is non-vegan junk food). But if you stick to whole plant foods that include mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and clean protein most of the time, with plant-based ‘treats’ every now and then, you’ll be truly living your best life, and will be for years to come. But don’t just take my word for it. Pubmed states that, “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
So go ahead, try it, enjoy it and don’t feel guilty about it. You are helping to save your health, animals lives, and our precious planet by choosing to take steps (big and small) to leave animal products off of your plate. If you ever feel ‘lost’ trying to transition, there are so many people out there to help you navigate, so please reach out to someone (including myself!).
Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach