Today, we live in a world with an abundance of choices when it comes to food. There is a large variety of meat alternatives and substitutes for those eating a strictly vegan diet or wanting to eat primarily plant-based, but it can be difficult to know if these alternatives are healthier than the meat options.
When trying to decide if alternative burgers, like the Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat burger, are healthy options for you, the first question is what is “healthy” for you? What does the rest of your diet look like? And what is your biggest goal when seeking out an alternative to meat-based burgers?
Saying one is entirely better than the other isn’t quite so simple when looking at the variety of nutrients as well as the personal and cultural reasons why you might choose a particular option. We can take a look at each option more closely and hopefully leave you with more insight and awareness to help you decide whether to include them in your diet or not. It must be noted that, while there is a fair amount of research on the health effects of red meat, the same is not true for plant-based alternatives because these options are just too new on the market.
Ingredients & nutrition facts
When comparing the ingredients list, it’s clear that both alternatives are highly processed compared to beef-based burgers which, if you make them at home, contain one ingredient. The protein in the Beyond Meat burgers is derived from pea protein isolate while the Impossible Burgers are primarily soy protein concentrate; both options contain around 20 grams of protein per burger which is nearly double what a lot of other vegetarian burgers contain.
While the Beyond Meat burgers are slightly lower in saturated fat compared to both the Impossible Burger and a standard 80% lean beef burger, the fat sources do vary. Beyond Meat includes both canola oil and refined coconut oil while the Impossible Burger includes coconut oil and sunflower oil; neither burger has any cholesterol. When looking at sodium content, both alternative burgers contain between 370-390mg of sodium while beef-based burgers sit around 75mg per patty. For overall calories, the Impossible Burger contains 240 calories, the Beyond Meat burger contains 250 calories, and a standard beef-based burger contains 280 calories.
How to decide
It comes back to what your ultimate goal is when deciding which burger option is right for you. If you’re looking in general to add more meat-free options to your diet or wanting to eat vegetarian or vegan, both the Impossible and Beyond Burger deliver a high-protein, nourishing option that allows you to enjoy a meal that looks, cooks, and tastes like beef, and is now almost as convenient as beef. These brands’ main goal is to produce a product that is identical to meat; their goal isn’t foremost health. If your goals include eating minimally processed foods, consider what the rest of your diet is comprised of. If you already prioritize a diet that focuses on whole, unprocessed foods, an occasional alternative burger is not likely to have a negative impact on your health.
On the other hand, if you eat meat and are primarily concerned with the number of ingredients in alternative burgers or the amount of sodium, consider choosing grass-fed beef between 85-90% lean or making turkey burgers. The benefit of making your own burgers is having the control of what additional ingredients you put in them (if you add any aside from seasoning)!
It’s important to remember that even though something is vegan, it’s not inherently healthy. We still need to be vigilant about checking nutrition labels and making sure what we eat aligns with our values and goals. Ultimately, we cannot definitively say that either beef or alternative burgers are better or worse for you, or that there is a right or wrong decision. What we eat is largely personal, and it comes down to what you prioritize when it comes to your diet and what your goals are. While we won’t go into it here, the environmental impacts of beef and animal rights are two of the biggest reasons most people choose to eat plant-based, and may, as well, deserve your consideration as part of a carefully planned diet.
Co-authors Hallie Tobias and Lindsay Peterson are personal trainers at Hyatt Training. Hallie is committed to her clients’ growth and isn’t afraid to push them to be the best versions of themselves. She is ACSM certified, Strong First SFG2 kettlebell certified, Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified, and a 200-hour registered yoga instructor. Lindsay believes personal training isn’t one-size-fits-all and can be for people who’ve never been in a gym to long-time fitness connoisseurs looking for specialized training. She is ACE certified. Learn more about Hallie or Lindsay, or get in touch with them by emailing us at Go@HyattTraining.com.
Hyatt Training is a collective of certified, enthusiastic and innovative personal trainers in Portland, Oregon. To read more nutrition related posts like this one, follow this link.