Nobody bitters a sweet, or already put, a hamburger. But when the meat that burgers are vegetables, we doubt. Does it make sense to discuss the name of these new formats and not their virtues (and defects)?
The hamburger is a format that has acceptance and if its raw material is vegetable (like the well-known Beyond meat ), this food fad becomes a resource available to people who have decided not to eat meat. Do we all agree on that? Well, no. An example: right now it is being debated in the European Parliament if labeling these products of plant origin as “hamburgers” is legitimate or should be called vegetable discs so as not to confuse the consumer because (oh, surprise) they are called hamburgers but they do not carry meat.
“I don’t see the problem of calling them hamburgers, because they are a steak product after all. For me, what is problematic is what they carry and whether they are healthy or not, ”explains Marian García, nutritionist, pharmacist, and professor at the Isabel I University … and she is right, why discuss the name and discuss what it is made of this vegetable meat?
A resource (punctual) for those who cannot cook
Any of us can make their vegetable burgers with vegetables and vegetables at home, but do we have time for it? The reality is that when we do not even have an hour and a half to devote to the stove, 43% of us go to the prepared dishes. We already take 14 kg of them a year and very high in the ranking of the chosen ones are the options that make nutrition experts tremble: cannelloni, pizzas, nuggets … according to data from the Spanish Association of Prepared Dishes (ASEFAPRE).
The million-dollar question is whether the new vegetable meats have come into our lives to swell the list of the ultra-processed ones that we should avoid or if they constitute an option to consider to increase the consumption of vegetables in our diet. “The point is that these alternatives, made from peas and soybeans, also carry oils (which do not have to be the healthiest), quite salt, additives …”, says Marian García.
The good news is that among the new plant meat alternatives, not all are the same. In Spain, for example, there is a company called Foods for tomorrow, which has a product called heura made with soy protein to which vegetables have been added and even have options that include olive oil.
“You have to distinguish between foods like these and other more processed options that are no longer healthy, In any case, all are alternatives for punctual use and none is sustainable if we compare them with lentils or peas. It seems fantastic to me that these alternatives exist, but let’s not think that they are healthier or more sustainable than producing some lentils or peas because they are not, ”explains the expert.
How to choose the best vegetable burger
What we have to look for when choosing between one vegetable or another meat is the same as we look for in any other food: the label. The list of ingredients and the percentages that appear there will help us know if what we take home is healthy or not. One clue, if there are 12, 13 or 18 ingredients … it’s time to evaluate if we need to eat a product that has refined oil, lots of salt or so many aromas.
Another precaution is to ignore the health claims that some of these brands are awarded. For example, they can highlight their amount of iron and compare it with the amount of iron in meat. “Those comparisons are torticeras. The vegetable protein and the one of animal origin are not equal, nor in the bad thing (because for example they do not carry the same fats); not even in the good, because meat has positive things that vegetables don’t have. The most important thing to keep in mind is that neither these processed meats nor red meat are the most sustainable or healthiest alternatives, ”concludes the expert.