beyond the hype web

Is the Beyond Burger actually healthy?

The Beyond Meat burger continues to skyrocket in popularity as the first plant-based burger to taste and look like the “real thing” (a.k.a beef). Here in Canada we saw Beyond Meat gain notoriety at fast food joints, and more recently it has rolled out to select grocery stores. If you are not familiar with the Beyond Meat company, and its burger, the main ingredients in their products are pea protein isolate, canola oil, and coconut oil.  Their products look and feel like meat, and to be honest I am a fan – they taste pretty darn good. Additionally, our food system’s contribution to greenhouse gases are heavily impacted by factory farms, and Beyond Meat offers a lower-impact option. In essence, when people eat more plant-based proteins the planet is better off.

The Beyond Meat Burger, by the numbers

Beyond Meat may be healthy for the planet, but is it good for individual health? Generally more legumes/beans in one’s diet is exactly what I recommend as dietitian, so at a glance it would appear an easy yes. However, let’s take a deeper look and compare it nutritionally with lean ground beef.

Beyond Meat Burger (4 oz) Ground Beef *Burger 85/15 (4oz)
Calories 270 243
Protein 20g 21g
Fiber 3g 0g
Saturated Fat 5g 7g
Sodium 380mg 75mg

*Note that I have used a ground beef burger with 85/15% lean to fat ratio. Often ~80/20 is used as well, but assuming someone is thinking of their health by eating a Beyond Burger I went with the slightly leaner beef burger. I could have also chosen classic lean (~90/10) but went middle of the road.

The Breakdown

  • Calorie comparisons are debatable depending on the percentage of fat in the ground beef you use and how you build your burger, but in this case Beyond Meat packs more calories per ounce.
  • Protein is even.
  • Beyond’s plant-based protein easily wins the fiber, as animal meat does not contain fiber.
  • The saturated fat content is surprisingly even, due to the coconut oil in the beyond burger.
  • Sodium is higher in the beyond burger, but assuming one would salt the meat of a beef burger, it’s a wash.

There definitely is no clear-cut winner in the individual health debate, but the Beyond Meat burger has a slight advantage due to its higher fiber content (fiber is so hot right now).

At the end of the day the Beyond Meat burger has been an excellent disrupter, shedding light on important issues, but it is still a processed food product.  As always, it’s best to eat most of your  plant-based proteins from good ole home cooking. Lentils anyone?

References

  1. https://eatforum.org/content/uploads/2019/01/EAT-Lancet_Commission_Summary_Report.pdf
  2. http://css.umich.edu/publication/beyond-meats-beyond-burger-life-cycle-assessment-detailed-comparison-between-plant-based
  3. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data
  4. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-014-1169-1
  5. https://www.pnas.org/content/111/33/11996
  6. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/beef-uses-ten-times-more-resources-poultry-dairy-eggs-pork-180952103/
  7. https://static.ewg.org/reports/2011/meateaters/pdf/methodology_ewg_meat_eaters_guide_to_health_and_climate_2011.pdf