What’s the Deal With Plant-Based Meats?


Despite the long history of plant-based meats and burgers, they are receiving a lot more attention recently. This is due to the increasing similarity they have to their meat-based competitors. The market for plant-based meat is not only targeting herbivores anymore. Traditionally called veggie burgers, the term “plant-based meats” may be emerging from the shocking resemblance that products like the Impossible Burger have to a beef burger. However, as with everything, there is the good and the bad.

How can plant-based meats look, cook, and taste like “real” meat?

There is no question that a black bean burger is not a plant-based replica of beef. It is quite clear that you are eating vegetables. The texture, color, and taste are very distinct. The innovative new plant-based meats have found a way around that, but at a cost. While these products are made from soy, there is a lot that goes into creating a meat-like product that may not be so apparent. 

What makes these plant-based meats so different?

The difference between a traditional veggie burger and newer plant-based burgers is the level of processing that goes into its creation. Anyone could go home and make their own black bean burger, but it takes a great deal of technology and expertise to create a meat-like burger. The key player in the meat-like creation is heme. Heme is a protein found in blood that carries iron throughout the body—human or animal. This is what gives meat it’s bloody look and texture. However, heme can be created from soy, too. Thus, we have a bloody, meaty plant-based burger!

Plant-based burgers vs. beef burgers

The creation of heme from soy is, indeed, genetic modification, or GMO. There is no way you could make soy resemble beef so closely without tweaking some chemistry. In addition to this, many other ingredients are added—most being things we are unfamiliar with. However, when comparing some of these trendy burgers side-by-side with a beef burger, their nutrition content is almost identical; that is, aside from saturated fat and sodium. Plant-based meats such as the Impossible Burger have roughly 3x the amount of sodium as well as higher fat content. Oil is the other ingredient at the top of this list alongside soy. 

If they’re not healthier, what’s all the buzz about?

This is not to say that vegetarian alternatives are not healthier—they totally are in a lot of cases. However, with this level of modification, things get a little messy. So, if plant-based meats aren’t healthier, why are they so popular? The biggest driver behind their development is the environment. Plant-based diets are environmentally friendly; meanwhile, the meat industry is one of the biggest detriments. In this sense, the innovative plant-based meats are a golden nugget for getting meat eaters to reduce their consumption. 

So, should I eat it?

No matter what technological advances present, whole foods are always going to take the W. If you already eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, use these plant-based meats in moderation. Have them when you get a craving or go to a barbeque, but don’t replace your wholesome veggie burgers on the daily. If you’re a carnivore that’s looking to transition to a more plant-based diet out of love for the environment, this is a fantastic way to do so. No matter where you fit in, stay conscious, educated, and enjoy your plants!

Plant-based meats and diets

If you are looking for additional information about plant-based diets from a registered dietitian, Elite Sports Clubs is here for you. We offer a wide range of health and lifestyle services to promote wellness within our members. For additional questions on plant-based diets, schedule a free nutrition consultation with an Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian or nutrition coach today!

Schedule a Nutrition Consultation

Written by Whitney Ament, Nutrition Intern at Elite Sports Clubs 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *