Meatless Burgers May Not Be As Healthy As You Think, According To New Research

by Julia Guerra

When you sit down at a restaurant and point to the juiciest burger on the menu, can you honestly say you’re thinking about anything other than how delicious that first bite is going to taste? Meat-eaters and plant-based people alike can appreciate good-for-your-soul food — food with flavors that burst in your mouth, indulgences you savor with each and every bite. Some foods are just meant to be enjoyed without thinking about calories, or fat percentages, or *gasp* sodium content. So when new research raised the question of whether or not meatless burgers are good for you, on the one hand, it’s an interesting tidbit to know. But, on the other, do you really care? You should, to some extent, but if burgers made from meat alternatives are a once-in-awhile meal, should you really sweat it?

Here's the deal: A new survey, which comes from a UK health group called Action on Salt, looked into some of the nutritional facts of vegetarian and vegan alternatives to meat, and came to the conclusion that meat-free burgers tend to contain more salt than animal protein patties — and, honestly, yawn. So there’s some extra salt in meatless burgers — who cares? There’s also a whole lot of fat in beef burger patties, not to mention all kinds of funky chemicals being poked and prodded into conventionally raised meat sources, so tomato, tomato, I guess?

Listen, I’m in no position to pass judgment on anyone’s diet, nor would I ever want to. You do you, boo. However, I do think it’s important that everyone be well-informed about what they’re putting into their body, no matter how they choose to eat, so I digress.

For the Action on Salt survey, as per CNN, researchers from Queen Mary University of London analyzed the nutritional facts of 157 meat alternatives from several different major retailers, and found that 28 percent of these products contained higher salt levels than the amount recommended by the Public Health England guidelines.

IMO, though, the real faux pas here is that, according to the survey, 20 percent of these products had "no front of pack colour-coded labelling," meaning they were basically missing nutrition labels altogether. So, again, you’re entitled to eat whatever the heck you want, but as a consumer, it should matter to you whether or not the brands you love openly offer details like sodium content on their packaging, because that way, you at least have the option to read over these facts and decide for yourself whether or not the food is right for your body.

But alas, the main focus of this study is the fact that meatless burgers tend to have a lot of salt in them, and while it’s true that, as per the American Heart Association, consuming too much sodium can lead to some serious health issues like high blood pressure, heart problems, and kidney stones, are you really eating burgers — meatless or not — on a daily basis?

It’s also important to acknowledge that the terms “meat-free” and “meatless” are ambiguous. Food that’s labeled in these ways could easily still be processed, filled with preservatives, and/or of a generally low quality in terms of the nutrients it offers. Moreover, there’s a difference between meatless and veggie and plant-based burgers, Sakara Life co-founders and co-CEOs, Whitney Tingle and Danielle Duboise, tell Elite Daily.

Aside from their high salt content being a potential issue, the main drawback of eating veggie or plant-based burgers is dependent on how your body reacts to the ingredients. In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, Thyroid Refresh resident nutritionist, Adrienne Klein, CTNC, explains that burgers made from soy, beans, lentils, wheat gluten, rolled oats, brown rice, nuts, and sunflower seeds, can all cause inflammation in the body. Soy, she adds, can act like estrogen in the body, and can even potentially lead to cancer down the road if you consume too much of it — key words: too much. Everything in moderation, remember?

“Animal related meat alternatives, such as Impossible Meat that we use at Umami, deliver almost the exact nutritional value as conventional beef, including sodium, when compared to fully seasoned animal meat based burger patties,” Martin Heierling, chief culinary officer of sbe, tells Elite Daily. So the real question, then, he says, is whether or not burgers in general are “good for you” when you really put into perspective how much sodium, sugars, and high fructose corn syrup are present in the general formula of the food.

Still, if you’re looking at veggie and plant-based burgers, Chef Dave Anderson, co-founder and executive chef of Outstanding Foods, and former chef and lead product developer at Beyond Meat, tells Elite Daily that the long-term benefits of making the swap are endless. You're helping to save the planet, for one thing, he says, and you're also using significantly less natural resources than you would to produce animal protein burgers. Plus, plant-based patties “have no cholesterol, less saturated fat [and] food safety issues, additional fiber, reduce your carbon footprint,” and, Anderson adds, “eating red meat has been linked to various diseases.”

I think I'd rather take a little extra salt now and again, but that's just me. Burgers are burgers, and they really aren't meant to be the "healthiest" thing on the menu. Whether you're plant-based or carnivorous, just make sure you're eating the foods you love most in moderation.