It's no secret that plant-based, meatless burgers are pretty trendy right now, especially because they taste wildly similar to beef burgers, but it begs the question — are plant-based burgers good for you? Are they actually healthier than beef burgers?
Gastroenterologist Dr. Anish Sheth breaks it down.
Q: "I know there are a lot of plant-based products out there that taste absolutely amazing as meat alternatives, but I don't even know what's in them. Is it really healthier than eating meat?"
– Roxanna, studio audience member
ARE PLANT-BASED BURGERS HEALTHIER THAN BEEF?
"Plant-based burgers were not created to be healthier," Dr. Anish Sheth says. "They were actually created to compete with the mouth-feel [of beef]. It turns out they're not really that different when it comes to nutritional value."
However, there are a few differences worth noting.
PLANT-BASED BURGERS vs. BEEF BURGERS: MAIN NUTRITIONAL DIFFERENCES
Cholesterol: "Plant-based burgers have no cholesterol," Dr. Anish says. "Cholesterol [is] a big risk factor for heart disease, as well as potentially other cardiovascular issues, [like] strokes."
Sodium: "The beef burger has almost a third of the sodium of a plant-based burger," the doc explains. "If you have high blood pressure, kidney disease, you actually want to be really careful about how much sodium you're taking in."
The downsides of eating red meat: "A recent study showed that just eating red meat twice a week increases your risk of heart disease. So if you can substitute once or twice a week a plant-based burger or plant-based meat instead of animal-based proteins, it actually might have a great impact on your risk of heart disease."
Why do plant-based burgers have as much fat as beef burgers?
"Part of this is the coconut oil that is in a lot of these plant-based burgers. It's the mouth feel. It gives meat that sizzling taste."
"The take-home here is that these burgers were created more for environmental reasons," Dr. Anish explains. "The founders of many of these companies were concerned about the Greenhouse gas emissions, the amount of water used, the amount of land used to produce a burger. 90 percent less water, less land and 90 percent less Greenhouse gas emissions [are used] for a plant-based burger as compared to a beef burger."
What makes plant-based burgers taste like meat?
"When you think about what gives meat its meatiness, it's actually the heme molecule which before was only found in animal products," the gastroenterologist explains. "This one company has found a way to find it from the root of a soy plant. They have reverse engineered it to actually extract heme from a plant, which is why some of these products are indistinguishable taste-wise."