Plant-based burgers are becoming popular and are not only available at your local grocery store but also at the top national fast-food chains.
The two top contenders are the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat burger. These burgers tout not only a high protein burger from plants but also a juicy flavorful burger similar to beef. Let’s first talk about why they are becoming so popular and why we should be interested.
It is widely known that eating less red meat is part of a healthy diet to ward off diseases such as diabetes, cancer, kidney and cardiovascular diseases. The American Heart Association, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control stand by taking measures to reduce our red meat consumption and avoid processed meats. Moving in this direction has beneficial effect on our weight, cholesterol level, blood pressure and blood sugar control. Plant based diets also point us in the direction of sustainability saving our planet’s natural resources such as water.
Plant-based diets rely on grains, nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and herbs. This is what needs to be kept in mind when starting to change one’s diet. Often, alternative burgers and other products may sound like a good thing, but they can also be highly processed. Some may include concentrates, additives and preservatives. Reading the product’s ingredient list can determine this as well as determine the protein source like soy, whey or legumes.
It can also reveal what kind of fat is used to achieve the “juicy” texture. Surprisingly, it can turn up saturated fats (the kind that raises blood cholesterol) like coconut oil accounting for a high value under saturated fat on the Nutrition Facts label. This is important to think about because a 4-ounce hamburger contains 7.5 grams of saturated fat and popular plant burgers are 8-9 grams saturated fat, making it not that much different from a traditional burger. (Note: 13 grams is the recommended limit for a person consuming a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.) Some products may use a combination of different and/or healthier fats.
Instead, think about simple ways to reduce meat like making a garbanzo bean burger or maybe something less ambitious like substituting a black bean taco in place of a ground beef taco. Try making a vegetarian chili without any added meat or experiment with a vegetable curry recipe. These are simple measures we can adopt to improve our diets and prevent disease.
I was introduced to some of these interesting recipes at a recent event entitled Forward Food. The Humane Society of the United States offers these presentations to help Americans eat more plants vs. meat. They point out that it preserves our natural resources, saves us money and protects farm animals. So give it a try. Click here for some inspiring recipes.
Mary Noon is a registered dietitian and nutritionist at Hartford Hospital.
Want even more information and personalized advice? Make an appointment with a registered dietitian. Call us at Hartford Hospital (860.972.2604) and we can tell you how.
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