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Plant-Based Burger

A plant-based burger is one that does not contain meat in it.

Two main types of plant-based burgers exist today. Both are of the vegetarian classification but some may not necessarily be vegan. They differ mainly on the ingredients used and nutritive value.

Veggie burgers. These came first and have been around for quite a time now. Primarily made of vegetables, they have beans, greens and mushrooms as main ingredients. Garnishings of corn and onions come in as extras plus beets and grains. Some are shaped like meat, but most seem not to bother with the shape. All in all, they do look like a burger, but devoid or with just a hint of the taste and texture of the meat burger we are accustomed to.

Non-meat burgers. Newer on the market, this type of burger is very closely similar in shape to the beef burger. They also tend to have higher protein content than its veggie counterpart, even at par or almost as much as that found in meat. This compensates for the little (if any) or complete absence of actual vegetables. Processed legumes, pea protein, soy, wheat, and other grains are used, instead.

Despite the absence of meat (usually beef), the plant-based burger can look, smell, satisfy and taste like the traditional burger. It may even have that same juicy and meaty tastefulness.

The traditional meat burger and its origins

A burger (or hamburger as it is commonly called) is a kind of food with fillings, usually a patty of ground meat, mostly beef, filled in between the two halves of a sliced bun. Other meats used render the burger different names, as in beef burger, bison burger, chicken burger, turkey burger, etc.

Burgers are often served with an assortment of delicious stuffing such as cheese, bacon, lettuce, onion, pickles, tomato and sometimes, chili. Ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and/or relish are then added as condiments to complete the desired flavor.

Some fast food establishments even make their own special sauce to give the burger a distinct taste and mark of identity.

Hamburgers topped with cheese are called cheeseburgers and very common nowadays.

The hamburger is supposed to have originated from Hamburg, Germany and was invented by Otto Kuase in 1891.

It was made from beef patty fried in butter, topped with a fried egg and sandwiched between a halved bread known as a burger bun. For unknown reasons, German sailors later omitted the fried egg.

Many other claims of the invention of the burger have come out but no conclusive evidence of such claims have been provided. We may only mention the names of the persons attributed with the invention claims so you may have a picture of who and how many they were where.

  • Louis Lassen – New Haven, Connecticut (1900)
  • Charlie “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen – Seymour, Wisconsin (1885)
  • Oscar Weber Bilby – Tulsa, Oklahoma (1891)
  • Frank and Charles Menches – Hamburg, New York (1881)
  • Fletcher “Old Dave” Davis – Athens, Texas (1880s)

Few others, some claimed by their descendants to have invented the burger, surfaced but without real substantiation to the claim.

What is in a plant-based burger?

You may be wondering how on earth could a plant-based burger feel, look, smell and taste like the original meat-based burger.

How did they come up with a burger that is delicious, juicy and meaty? Except that it does not contain meat.

What you usually find in the plant-based burger clone

Ingredients of the typical plant-based burger and their functions:

1. Brown rice, mung beans and peas create a complete protein because they each contribute to come up with the nine essential amino acids.

2. Expeller-pressed canola oil, cocoa butter, refined coconut oil and sunflower oil are the ingredients for fats. The cocoa butter and coconut oil, specifically, are for marbling and pan sizzle that mimics meat cooking.

3. Beet juice extract simulates the bloodiness of beef which changes color (of the patty) as it is cooking.

4. Methylcellulose and potato starch help to prevent constipation and promote digestive and colon health.

5. Apple extract has a lot of functional features that include smooth digestion, boosting immunity, detoxification of the liver and the body in general, aid in weight loss, increasing body endurance, whitening of teeth and improving blood circulation.

6. Pomegranate extract, like apple extract, has a host of health benefits to the body including reduction of oxidative stress and inflammation in the arteries, lowering blood pressure and helping prevent atherosclerosis that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

7. Potassium chloride is a mineral for the proper functioning of the heart, muscles, kidneys, nerves, and digestive system.

8. Lemon juice concentrate, as an excellent source of vitamin C, is vital for bone formation, connective tissue repair and gum health.

9. Salt, vinegar, water and natural flavors complete the list of ingredients that render the plant-based burger its pleasantly delicious taste.

From the description above, the plant-based burger seems to be a very healthy and nutritious food.

Let us examine the plant-based burger in detail.

Plant-based burger recipes (of some known brands)

There are a few brands of plant-based burgers in the market today that merit some discussion. 

We may not have detailed information as to how they are prepared but we get an idea of how they are in terms of healthiness and their nutritive value. And oh, how they taste.

1. Beyond Meat Burgers (The Best “Beef” Burger). This burger is kosher, has no genetically modified organisms (GMOs), gluten and soy. The patty is easy to prepare, looks and tastes like the traditional burger. What’s more, it has got a high protein content (100% plant-based protein).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 260 calories, 18 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 5 grams carbs, 2 grams fiber, 0 gram sugar, 350 mg sodium, 20 grams protein

2. Dr. Praeger’s Super Greens Veggie Burgers (Best Veggie Burger). As Dr. Praeger’s is a veggie burger, protein content becomes a challenge. But combining pea protein with apple, onions and six varieties of greens can make up to 10 grams of protein per patty.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 160 calories, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 11 grams carbs, 4 grams fiber, 0 gram sugar, 350 mg sodium, 10 grams protein

3. Simple Truth Emerge Plant Based Patties (Best Meat-texture Patty). Emerge plant-based patties from Kroger Co. is perhaps the closest to beef patties in terms of texture. Vegan as it is, it does not contain dairy, gluten and soy. Nor does it have any GMO. When cooked, it sizzles like beef but does not leech and swim in oil. So it is drier and far less oily to the mouthfeel. And while pea is its main source of protein, the pea taste is so faint you wouldn’t believe they put pea in it. It also costs a little less than most plant-based burgers.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 230 calories, 14 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 6 grams carbs, 0 gram fiber, 0 gram sugar, 390 mg sodium, 20 grams protein

4. Gardein Ultimate Beefless Burgers (Lowest-fat Burger). Vegan and kosher, the Gardein Ultimate Beefless Burger is crafted from a blend of soy, vegetables and wheat. Despite its freshly-grilled taste and meaty texture, it sells at a price impossible not to be able to afford.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 130 calories, 4.5 grams fat (0 gram saturated), 7 grams carbs, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, 320 mg sodium, 16 grams protein

5. Sweet Earth Awesome Burgers (Highest-in-protein Veggie Burger). True to its moniker, these awesome patties are a giant in protein content (25 grams). Having this burger for lunch or dinner will carry you over to the next meal. You won’t feel the need to fill up again for in-between-meal snacks.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 280 calories, 16 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 9 grams carbs, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, 360 mg sodium, 25 grams protein

6. Boca Original Vegan Veggie Burgers (Best Low-calorie Burger). Well, not all plant-based burgers try to imitate the good ol’ beef burger. Although there is no turkey meat in it, this veggie burger was made to taste like a “turkey burger.” But here is what each patty actually contains: plant-based protein from soy and wheat. With just 70 calories per serving and without any saturated fat, no wonder it got its “best low-calorie burger” nickname.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 70 calories, less than 1 gram fat (0 gram saturated), 6 grams carbs, 3 grams fiber, 0 gram sugar, 280 mg sodium, 13 grams protein

7. Whole Foods Market’s 365 Plant-Based Breaded Patties (The “Chicken” Patty). Want a “chicken” burger without the chicken meat in it? Try this one from Whole Foods Market. It looks and tastes like chicken. It really is the “best ‘chicken’ patty.” Won’t make you fat because it’s a veggie burger, yet lets you enjoy what you like about chicken – without the bones, of course.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 130 calories, 5 grams fat (less than 1 gram saturated), 12 grams carbs, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, 380 mg sodium, 11 grams protein

8. Hodo Tofu Cajun Burgers (Best Flavored Burger). Spice up with this cajun-style burger packing 19 grams of protein per serving. Thyme, paprika and cayenne pepper provide the zest that makes the tofu-based patty come alive and tingle the taste buds.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 210 calories, 9 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated), 12 grams carbs, 4 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, 490 mg sodium, 19 grams protein

9. Impossible Grilling Pack (Best Meat-like Burger). Considered as the hottest among non-meat burgers around. It packs 19 grams of protein per serving in patties of heme, potato protein, soy and oils. But what really makes it attractive to the market is its dead ringer resemblance to the real meat burger.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 240 calories, 14 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 9 grams carbs, 3 grams fiber, less than 1 gram sugar, 370 mg sodium, 19 grams protein

10. MorningStar Farms Meat Lovers Veggie Burgers (Best Value Pack). Intriguing, sort of. But this vegan burger actually feels and tastes like the real thing – juicy, meaty and moist. Hesitant vegetarians can feel at home with the patty’s real-meaty texture. And it doesn’t crumble and collapse as you cook it. If you are that keen on protein numbers, this 27-gram-protein packer may well be number one in your list. As promised by its nickname, it truly is the “Best Value Pack!”

Nutrition Information (per serving): 280 calories, 18 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated), 8 grams carbs, 4 grams fiber, less than 1 gram sugar, 580 mg sodium, 27 grams protein.

Conclusion: Is the plant-based burger a really healthy choice?

Now, we already have an idea of how the plant-based burger compares with the traditional burger, more or less.

How about an assessment of how healthy the plant-based burger is versus the traditional burger?

Some plant-based burgers are made with products that are genetically modified so that they fall into the category of highly-processed food products. Highly-processed food products tend to contain more added sugar than when whole vegetables and such ingredients are used.

To get that meaty flavor, heme iron is added. Heme is produced through the fermentation of genetically engineered yeast. Then tested on animals by companies for results that are required by the Food and Drug Administration prior to approval. Some people, especially vegans, may not like it.

True, vegetables which comprise most of the components of the plant-based burger are healthier eaten in their natural whole form. But imagine yourself eating a very thick plant-based burger with whole vegetables sticking out the sides. That is, if you can hold the whole thing properly even using both of your hands.

Here, we are given the choice between very healthy but difficult to prepare and even just to eat plant-based burgers versus the ones mentioned in our list above which we can conveniently and readily buy from almost any grocery store and from supermarkets.

The nutrition information below each brand of plant-based burger mentioned above is for easy reference and guidance if we wish to compare the product with their traditional burger counterparts.

Compared to the traditional burger, even the latter choice of convenient packaging, the plant-based burger is definitely the better and healthier choice.

But of course, the final say is yours.

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