Health & Wellness

Are Plant-Based Burgers Better for You?

They’re not made of meat, so they must be healthier than a regular burger, right? Well, sort of


You can get them at A&W and at the supermarket: Beyond Meat burgers—100% plant-based burgers that taste like meat. Given that they’re marketed as a great source of plant-based protein, it’s no surprise that many think they’re healthy.

While it’s true that there are some health benefits to choosing a plant-based sausage over the pork variety the next time you stop for a breakfast sandwich, the benefits are easy to exaggerate. Not containing meat, the burgers have hardly any cholesterol and no trans fat, but when it comes to calories, sodium, and saturated fats, they fare about the same as the other burgers on the menu.

Beyond Meat burgers are made up primarily of processed pea protein (“Pea Protein Isolate”), as well as canola oil, coconut oil, and a lot of salt. And any highly processed food, whether it be processed meats, white breads and pastries, or foods deep fried or rich in canola oil, are not healthy—even if they’re vegan (remember, Oreos are technically vegan, too).

A&W’s teen burger has 500 calories, 26 grams of fat, and 910 milligrams of sodium. The A&W Beyond Meat burger has 500 calories, 29 grams of fat, and 1,100 milligrams of sodium. The Beyond Meat burger at Tim Hortons is almost the same—480 calories, 26 grams of fat, and 1,060 milligrams of sodium.

Health Canada recommends that adults aim to consume 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day but no more than 2,300 milligrams, and those burgers—plant-based or not—get you close to halfway there.

Does that mean you should go back to ordering your usual burger? Not exactly. If you want to cut down on how much meat you’re eating, the plant-based sort are a good replacement. The consumption of red meat is associated with higher mortality rates, Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain kinds of cancers, and a study published this past June by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that increasing your consumption increased your risk for a premature death.

Plant-based burgers are still fast food, though; veggie burgers made with whole-food ingredients such as black beans, ground flax seeds, and your favourite seasonings, are a much healthier alternative.

Photo: iStock/rojoimages.