Meat Substitutes, are they Healthy??


I have seen many patients incorporating meat substitute also known as “plant-based protein,” “fake meat” instead of lean proteins as part of a healthy diet. More restaurants and grocery stores carrying meat substitutes in forms of chicken, sausage, ground beef, burgers, chorizo, meatballs. Some familiar names of meat substitute are “Impossible burger ©” and “Beyond burger ©.” Have you ever wondered, “is it really healthy”?

Let’s look at the commonly used ingredients and nutritional facts of the meat substitutes.

Beyond Meat products is made from pea protein, rice protein, mung bean protein, and it contains refined coconut oil, canola oil, methylcellulose, potato starch, apple and pomegranate extract, salt, potassium, vinegar, lemon juice, sunflower lecithin, beet juice, cocoa butter, and yeast. According to their website, all the ingredients are processed using “heating, cooling and pressure to create a fibrous texture of meat and layer in plant-based fats, binders, flavors and colors.”

Nutritional facts: 4oz of Beyond meat products
Calories: 270
Fat 20 grams (6grams saturated fat)
Sodium: 380mg
Carbohydrates: 5 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Sugar 0 grams
Protein: 20 grams

Impossible burgers use soy and potato protein to make their products. Scientists have genetically engineered yeast from roots of soybeans to produce heme iron giving the “bleeding” characteristic. Also contains coconut oil, sunflower oil, and natural flavors.

Nutritional Facts: 4 oz of Impossible burger products
Calories: 240
Fat: 14 grams (8 grams from saturated fats)
Sodium: 430mg
Carbohydrates: 5 grams
Sugar: <1 gram
Fiber: 2 grams
Protein: 19 grams


93% Lean ground beef Nutritional facts 4 oz
Calories: 219
Fat: 10 grams (4g from saturated fats)
Sodium: 75mg
Carbohydrates: 0 grams
Sugar: 0 grams
Fiber: 0 grams
Protein 30 grams

Looking at the facts and comparing the nutritional values, 93% ground beef has less calories, fat grams, saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrates than the meat substitutes. The 93% lean ground beef also has more protein than the meat substitute. The meat substitutes are made of highly processed ingredients and the impossible burger contains “genetically engineered” soybean roots. With that said, a recent report in the JAMA, states “Studies show that replacing red meat with nuts, legumes and other plant foods can lower mortality and chronic disease risk, but it’s not possible to extrapolate that processed burgers made with purified soy or pea protein will have the same health benefits.” At the end, I believe, everything in moderation. But I would carefully look at ingredients and nutritional facts before I consume foods that are marketed as healthy.

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Disease. 2017 Dec;27(12):1060-1080.
doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2017.10.010. Epub 2017 Oct 18.
JAMA. 2019;322(16):1547-1548. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.13187

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