Is The Beyond Meat Burger Actually Good For You?

What better way to celebrate Meatless Monday than to set my ambitious student blogger Chris to the task of exploring the highly popular Beyond Meat burger.

This product, by all accounts, has the potential to completely revolutionize the meat alternative industry and is a worthy topic of further exploration.

Chris is growing into this writing and did a great job with this investigative piece, which includes a review of the ingredients, nutrient profile AND a blind taste test.

You outdid yourself buddy!

The Beyond Meat Burger

By Chris Miller

[Reviewed and Edited by Yours Truly]

Vegetarian friendly substitutes of traditionally meat-based dishes are nothing new; while many are original recipes, isolated from the meat-eating world, others are imitations of common meat dishes such as the (in)famous tofurkey.

Attempts at vegetarian friendly imitation burgers are commonplace and the subject of today’s article: The Beyond Burger, has taken the spotlight.

With constantly growing sales and acceptance into grocery store meat aisles Beyond Meat has gripped the market for plant-based eating by the buns with its imitation meats.

The Beyond Burger is a plant-based meat substitute burger developed by Beyond Meat, but is it the savior of the vegan barbeque?

Let’s take a look.

So What’s In One Of These Things?

Aside from water the primary ingredient and main source of protein in the burger is “pea protein isolate” which is a plant-based protein derived from peas.

It’s gotten somewhat popular as a protein source in manufactured foods due to its high digestibility and satiating effect.

Yellow peas are dried and ground then the fiber and starches are washed away with water in order to leave only the protein behind.

Rice protein isolate is the second protein source intended to complete the amino acid profile of the burgers; as pea protein is high in the essential amino acid lysine but low in cysteine and methionine while rice protein is the opposite, high in cysteine and methionine but low in lysine.

By combining these protein sources the Beyond Burger offers a complete essential amino acid profile similar to meat.

The main sources of fat in the burger are expeller-pressed canola oil and refined coconut oil. Expeller-pressed canola oil is extracted non-chemically by good old-fashioned squeezing as opposed to the chemical processes involved in most canola extraction.

Normally a hexane solvent is used to break down everything but the oil, which is then extracted and heat treated to remove the solvent.

Miniscule amounts of the solvent may remain in the oil however (we’re talking parts per million miniscule) which does raise alarms for some. We’re not sure if this actually has any negative effects on human health but for some people it’s better safe than sorry.

Canola oil has the lowest amount of saturated fat when compared to other common cooking oils, higher amounts of omega-3s, and no cholesterol.

Coconut oil on the other hand is very high in saturated fat and low amounts of both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

The refining process of coconut oil involves roasting, pressing, then bleaching of the coconut flesh. This has some benefits including a higher smoke point (important for burgers) and a milder coconut flavor, however if you prefer whole, unprocessed foods then refined coconut oil may not be for you.

The remaining ingredient list:

  • Natural flavors
  • Cocoa butter
  • Mung bean protein
  • Methylcellulose (plant fiber derived from bamboo)
  • Potato starch
  • Apple extract
  • Salt
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice concentrate
  • Sunflower lecithin
  • Pomegranate fruit powder
  • Beat juice extract

All appear in much lower quantities, most making up less than 2% of the product, and are primarily intended to mimic the flavor, texture, and appearance of meat.

Of note in regard to “natural flavors” it may be important to you to know that this does not necessarily mean unprocessed flavors. Natural flavors are flavor compounds derived from sources like spices, meat, or plants and may have been chemically treated.

Nutrients comparison

We’ll be comparing both a generic NoName brand frozen patty and a McDonalds patty to an equal serving of the Beyond Burger.

113g serving Beyond Burger NoName McDonalds
Calories 250 320 300
Saturated Fat 6g 13g 10g
Trans Fat 0g 1g 1g
Cholesterol 0mg 80mg 94mg
Sodium 390mg 430mg 75mg
Fiber 2g 0g 0g
Protein 20g 14g 26g

As you can see the Beyond Burger holds its own pretty well.

Lower calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol than the competition while also boasting a small bit of fiber and comparable protein. It is however notably high in sodium. It should be mentioned that these numbers are only for the patty.

Once you add a bun, toppings, and condiments they’ll be quite a bit higher.

But How Does It Taste?

Out of obligation, curiosity, and because I really wanted a burger I decided to give A&W’s Beyond Burger a try.

Pressing my poor student budget to the limit I ordered two Mama burgers, requesting one have its patty replaced with a Beyond Burger patty.

Can you tell which is which?

Once I bit into them I certainly could.

While the Beyond Burger was surprisingly good and yes, very close to the flavor of real meat, it wasn’t quite there.

The texture was a bit softer and had a pleasant but telltale aftertaste. It’s not going to fool any meat eaters, but it’s close and still very tasty.

Is the Beyond Burger for You?

Well that depends; there’s endless reasons people reduce their meat intake. If your reasoning is environmental or related to animal suffering then absolutely you should give the Beyond Burger a try.

Beyond Meat claims each of their burgers requires 99% less water, 93% less land, 46% less energy and generates 90% less greenhouse gas than a traditional beef burger.

This is certainly promising.

From a nutritional perspective consumers may harbour concerns over the extensive ingredient list, but it remains hard to deny that the nutrient composition is favourable to other common beef burger varieties. The cost could also be a concern, with 2 frozen Beyond Burgers costing eight dollars in most grocery stores.

All in all the Beyond Burger is very promising and could create options for a lot of vegetarians. It’s not perfect but no food is.

I certainly didn’t regret feeding my curiosity and biting into one, I doubt you will either.

Final Verdict: Save a cow, give the Beyond Burger a try.

Chris