Plant-based burgers are all the rage … but are they good for you?

In my younger years as a vegetarian, I’d sometimes be in the mood for something rich, wholesome, and traditionally hearty. On those days I’d treat myself to a hearty veggie burger.

But although burgers might be a traditional go-to for Americans everywhere, the burger as we know it has been taking some pretty innovative strides as of late.

Using soy plants, pea proteins, and other plant-based sources, companies such as Beyond Meat have been making veggie burgers that look, smell, and taste like real meat (some would say even better).

Vegan burgers aren’t new. When I used to replenish my body with the occasional post-workout burger, I would happily do so with patties full of nourishing whole foods, such as beans, cauliflower, or chickpeas. Spiced in various ways and full of anti-inflammatory nutrients, these filling offerings are still something that I enjoy today.

But the plant-based burgers of these past few years are different. The goal of something such as the Impossible Burger isn’t just to appeal to vegans but to fuel a more plant-based way of living for us all.

The slogan of the Impossible Burger is “Made from plants for people who love ground beef” and this really hits on the potential of these burgers. We all know that consuming animal products at the level we currently are is unsustainable for the environment, but it’s unsustainable for our health too.

With the launch of The Game Changers globally, the world has finally become aware of all the inflammatory components in animal-based products, with your average meat-based burger elevating toxins in the body, increasing cholesterol, and increasing the risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, colon cancer, and high blood pressure. This means meat-based burgers not only impair the body’s ability to train and recover but also put our very lives on the line.

A lot of people love the taste of meat, though, and that causes a conflict when trying to eat more plant-based. The transition to the veggie-packed bean burgers that I and other vegan athletes enjoy aren’t necessarily going to be the best tool to transition in the early stages of cutting down. That’s where these meat-like burgers become a great asset for turning to a diet that, in the long run, will have massive environmental, resource, and health benefits for us all.

The Beyond Burger, for example, has the same protein as an 80/20 ground beef burger with none of the cholesterol of a conventional burger. This alone is a massive benefit to a person’s health, not to mention the other benefits such as its iron, fibre, and calcium content (let’s not forget the taste either).

Anything that can help people move towards a healthier, more plant-based way of living is good. But although these increasingly popular burgers are a welcome addition to our dietary choices, they shouldn’t be relied upon.

A meaty meatless burger is still a processed food, which means it will never provide as much of a nutritional kick as a good old-fashioned bean, lentil, or chickpea burger. Although these burgers might contain zero grams of cholesterol, too, they do have many ingredients used to bind and provide taste to the burgers, which leads to a high fat content and other less than optimal results (http://health.harvard.edu/blog/impos...-2019081517448).

Despite this, I still celebrate the choice that these burgers offer for those who are transitioning, want to eat out easily with meat-loving friends, or are simply flavour curious. These burgers show that, when it comes to plant-based eating, you’re not going to be lacking in protein, taste, of anything else.

My personal advice? Enjoy whatever meat-based substitutes help you reach your goals. Just remember that, alongside these booming burger innovations, there’s also a lot to be said about the more whole foods-based choices too.