Tanya Choy is a Registered Dietitian at St. Paul’s Hospital. Today, she breaks down the Beyond Burger to see how it stacks up nutritionally and where it fits in a plant-based diet.
Preliminary results from a study out of Dalhousie University suggest that 6.4-million Canadians currently restrict or partially restrict meat in their diet. People have reported going more plant-based for a variety of reasons but among the most commonly listed are for religious reasons, concern for animal welfare and environmental, as well as, for personal health. And this number is only expected to grow. This trend seems to be reflected in grocery stores as there are more and more plant-based meat alternatives available to consumers.
Cue the Beyond Meat Burger, which is popping up in restaurants, fast food meals, grocery stores and, most recently, Subway, with a lot of hype. It is advertised as “the world’s first plant-based burger that looks, cooks and satisfies like beef”.
So the question is, since the Beyond Burger is plant-based, does that mean it is healthier for us?
Evidence suggests that an appropriately planned vegetarian diet is nutritionally adequate and can provide health benefits in the prevention of chronic diseases.
Let’s take a look at a Beyond Meat Burger side by side with a similar weight 100% beef burger patty to see how it stacks up:
- The Beyond Burger has lower calories, total fat and saturated fat; however, it is still not considered a “low fat” product.
- It is interesting to point out the high iron content in the Beyond Burger. Iron is a mineral that is essential for the production of red blood cells and when following a vegetarian diet, it is important to ensure sources of iron are included.
- The protein content is similar for both patties.
- The Beyond Burger has more sodium than the beef burger. We also need to keep in mind that this might not be the total sodium in the meal as often salt is added during cooking and found in toppings like sauces, pickles and the bun.
If it’s plant-based, what plants are in the Beyond Burger?
Beyond Meat ingredient list: 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 colour).
The Beyond Burger is plant-based and vegetarian but in reviewing the 18 ingredients, don’t count on getting a serving of vegetables from this patty. The product is mostly made of pea protein isolate and oil.
If I’m looking to introduce more plant-based options into my diet, what should I look for?
For health considerations, choosing foods that are made from whole ingredients is ideal. Choosing a veggie burger that is made of whole ingredients like beans or lentils, whole grains and vegetables or making a homemade version will be the most nutritious.
For those trying to reduce overall meat intake, try making smaller amounts of meat go further by adding oatmeal, spices, egg, sautéed mushrooms and onions to any meat mixture for an increase the fibre, vitamins and minerals of any burger.
So what’s the bottom line?
As a registered dietitian what I like about the Beyond Burger is that it has created a monumental wave of conversation about creating food that tastes great without the heavy carbon foot print and environmental effect associated with industrialized meat production. I think the time is now to start thinking about how we can eat well while reducing damage to our earth. I also think that for the first time, a product has been made so similar to beef that it may act as a mind-changer for people who have never before fathomed trying plant-based products.
That said, there are gaps when it comes to the Beyond Burger’s nutritional value and hopefully the company will opt to take their product to the next level by including whole foods like beans, vegetables and whole grains.
The Beyond Burger provides an extra choice that tastes like beef and has no animal products, but it should not be marketed as more nutritious than other burgers and should be consumed in moderation due to its highly processed nature.