New Plant Based Meatless Burgers Do Not Help with Weight Loss & May Cause Weight Gain

Plant-based meatless burgers are joining the “New Burger Wars.” For those who followed the burger wars of the 1980s, you witnessed beef burgers from  McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s competing to be number one in the fast-food industry. You heard “Flame-Broiled vs Frying” or “Have it Your Way.”  Now it’s the war of the beef burger vs. plant-based meatless burger with the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger leading the way. This year, Burger King rolled out the plant-based Impossible Burger at its 7,200 U.S… locations, joining White Castle, Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, and TGI Fridays in offering meatless products.

Reasons why Plant-Based Meatless Burgers Can Cause Weight Gain:

  1. Calories: Little difference between plant vs. meat burger, meatless burger not a low calorie option, same calories as beef burgersFat: Fat is often higher in plant-based burgers, thus higher calories
  2. Carbs: Higher in plant-based meatless vs. meat-based burgers, not suitable for low carb dieters.
  3.  Sodium: Much higher sodium (by a factor of 10)  in plant-based burgers, Beyond Burger has 1/5 of the day’s sodium
  4. Protein: 30% lower in plant-based burgers.
  5. Compensatory Belief: Eating what appears to be “healthy or low calorie” entrees dieters often seek high calorie side dishes.
  6. Chemicals: Numerous chemicals added to plant-based burgers may increase appetite, lower metabolism and be of questionable safety.
  7. Plant-Based Burgers are highly processed and new evidence shows increased eating and subsequent weight gain with processed foods.

The questions you need answered:

  • Are plant based, meatless burgers really healthy?
  • Do they assist in a weight loss program?
  • Will they make you lose weight or even actually gain weight?

The answers lie in your personal food preferences, your nutrition, and weight loss  goals.

Given the increasing popularity of these new products its important for individuals, whether vegetarians or carnivores trying to lose weight to recognize some of the differences and similarities in the nutritional content of these products. What looks “healthy,” low calorie, or low carb may be deceiving.

Vegetarians Have Been Eating Meatless Burgers for Years

Meatless burgers made from soy, wheat, vegetables, and beans have been a staple of the vegetarian movement for a long time. In the US, about 0.75 percent, or 1 million adults are vegans who consume no animal products. Eight percent of U.S.. adults, or 23 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet eliminating most beef and chicken. The plant-based meatless burger has become the favorite of vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

Rise of New Plant Based Meatless Burgers

Plant-based meatless burgers such as Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger are the two leading candidates to replace the traditional beef burger for many health conscious Americans. Both plant based products look, smell, and taste like traditional beef burgers to appeal to the millions of meat eaters. Most people have difficulty separating the real from the imitation. Even your local supermarket is offering the new plant based meatless patties made from soy, beet, sweet potato, quinoa and more. It shows you how far meat substitutes have come!

The Major Nutritional Similarities and Differences Between Plant Based Meatless vs. Meat Based Burgers:

1. Similarities: Calories-Protein-Fat

When comparing the 2 major plant based burgers (Impossible and Beyond) to the classic beef burger it’s clear that the similarities in calories may be the most important issue.  Non-vegetarians are often deceived into thinking plant based foods are lower in calories and fat compared to animal based foods. In meat vs plant based burgers, the calories are similar however, the fat is higher. This misconception leads to the  “compensatory belief” that after eating what appears to be a “healthy or low calorie” entree  it is acceptable to add some high calorie or carb food. This is similar to the belief that “I exercised today, so I can eat the pizza.”

The high carbs, very high sodium and lower protein in the meatless products are minor differences.  For low carb dieters (Atkins, HCG, Keto etc)  the beef burger is the only product with 0 carbs. Here is a comparison of the nutrition for these products:

Plant Based Meatless vs Beef Burger Nutritrion

2. Differences:  Many Added Chemicals in New Plant Based Meatless Burgers:

Plant based meatless burger are among the most processed food product you can eat. Recent studies reveal weight gain when eating processed foods as compared to fresh foods.  In an attempt to mimic red meat, numerous additives have been incorporated.  Soy and wheat (common food allergens) are the major components of the Impossible burger.  Coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, soy leghemoglobin (used to achieve the red meat look, aroma and taste), yeast, konjac gum, xanthan gum, zinc and an impressive number of B vitamins have been added. The soy leghemoglobin may be the most controversial additive because of its man made origin. In long term rat studies it appears safe. Long term usage at high levels is unknown for humans.  The Harvard Department of Nutrition wrote in October 2019, that there is no evidence to substantiate that the nutrient differences between plant based burgers and meat burger pose any health benefits or dangers with current knowledge.

Plant-Based Meatless Burgers offer Benefits to Vegetarians, but Not to Those Seeking Weight Loss:

New plant-based meatless burgers offer a treat for most vegetarians who miss beef. They mimic the classic hamburger almost perfectly. For vegetarians trying to follow a low-carb lifestyle or trying to lose weight, they are not a great choice because of the high number of calories and carbs in the “meat” itself.  The high carb meatless product increases the total carb burden for many vegetarians seeking weight loss.

Plant Based Meatless Burgers Offer Few Benefits for Non-Vegetarians Depending on the Goals: Maintaining Weight or Weight Loss

Plant based meatless burgers are not helpful in a weight loss program because they have similar calories and more carbs than their meat alternatives. In very popular ultra- low carb diets such as HCG or Ketone Diet Plans which depend  on very low carbs, high fat and high protein for ketosis, the plant based meatless burgers will prevent weight loss and may even cause weight gain.

For non-vegetarians desiring to avoid animal products whether, for health or environmental reasons, plant based meatless burgers offer a good alternative choice as long as the individual recognizes the differences and similarities.

How the Meatless Burgers are Consumed May Be the Most Important Consideration:

Meat or meatless burgers are often consumed in restaurants, more recently in fast food settings. They are often accompanied by a refined grain bun, cheese and sauces. Side dishes can be a low calorie salad or French fries. For  those trying to lose weight, it does not matter where the “meat” came from: plant or animal,  it’s the nutrition of the whole meal. Many people compensate when ordering what they think is a “low calorie, healthy meatless burger” and order high calorie sides. (Compensatory beliefs (CBs) are convictions that the consequences of engaging in an indulgent behavior (eating cake) can be neutralized by the effects of another behavior (skipping dinner). This will defeat any weight loss attempt. The BK example below shows the meatless and meat based burgers having similar calories and the high calorie, high carb sides in the extras:

Meatless burgers at BK