What you need to know about plant-based burgers

What you need to know about plant-based burgers

Plant-based burgers are gaining popularity faster than you can say “order up!”

But are these new patties well done, or is it rare to find a healthy option?

You need to remember to read the label and focus on patties that are real food, not processed.

“Fake meats, textured vegetable proteins and processed soy products are usually the main ingredient and protein source found in veggie burgers,” says Anna Jurmann, a clinical dietitian at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.

What’s the beef with these ingredients?

The highly processed foods can contain harmful by-products from the creation process, including aluminium. What’s more, textured vegetable protein is often flavored with monosodium glutamate (MSG), which research has linked to headaches, heart palpitations and other symptoms.

Jurmann says veggie burgers also typically contain inflammatory vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil, cotton seed oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil or margarine, which should be avoided.

“When choosing a veggie burger, look for ingredients like sprouted or fermented grains, legumes or nuts,” she says.

Jurmann recommends eating “real food.”

“That means avoiding those fake meats, textured vegetable proteins and processed soy products. Fermented soy products such as miso, natto and tempeh are preferred options, as they render soy more digestible and contain lower levels of goitrogens (compounds that inhibit the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine correctly, which can lead to hypothyroid problems)” she says.

Jurmann says that even if you’re on a plant-based diet, you still have to pay close attention to what you eat.

“In fact,” she says, “it’s actually very easy to eat poorly on a plant-based (a.k.a. vegetarian or vegan diet) as it is on an omnivore diet. It’s harder to create nutrient deficiencies when eating meat, fish and eggs compared to only plants.”

Related Posts



  1. Rebekah Asensio June 4, 2019 at 1:17 pm · Reply

    Please double check your information on MSG. I believe this is one of those studies that was found to be inaccurate, but is still floating in the rumor mill. The article you link to does not say the same thing about MSG that you have indicated. Mayo Clinic’s notes on MSG are that studies have NOT found any link to those symptoms.

  2. What’s the evidence on the inflammatory vegetable oils?

  3. Holly,
    Would you be able to give us a recipe to make our own healthy veggie burgers at home?
    thank you !

  4. Please clarify “real food”. I hope you aren’t recommending “real” meat burgers as healthier alternatives. Can’t find much more processed food than ground meat, plus all the antibiotics and hormones involved in the production. I’ve never heard of “inflammatory” oils but I have heard of the atherosclerotic effects of animal fat. Almost any veggie burger would be healthier than the meat version, not to mention the harm to environment caused by the meat industry.

  5. Rhonda Schmall June 5, 2019 at 9:19 am · Reply

    I have a great meatball recipe at home that contains ground pecans, an egg, bread crumbs, parsley, seasonings and parmesan cheese if anyone would like the recipe I would be glad to provide it.

  6. I would love to try your recipe!

    Thank you!

  7. Rhonda, could you email it to me? katherine.murray@aurora.org

  8. Katherine Murray June 5, 2019 at 2:09 pm · Reply

    I agree! Would love more healthy recipes!

  9. Rhonda I would like your meatball recipe.

  10. I would love to have your recipe for the plant based meatball. Thank you so much!

  11. Thanks so much for this info. Turns out meat can be the healthier choice.

  12. I make my own and they are so much more fresher and tastier. I like to play with beans and working on making a really firm patty. I steer clear of eggs to hold the patty together. I hate eggs. I make the patties and freeze them.

  13. Because of the way our food industry works, we rarely know what goes into our food (even if we make it ourselves from scratch). If there’s a simple list of common mal-ingredients found in veggie burgers, I’d be interested to read THAT, rather than the hype found here.

    “Real food” is such a throw-away marketing term, I am pretty surprised to see it used in this article from a health care provider. I’ve seen articles describe flash frozen blueberries as “less than real food,” which is ludicrous.–it’s a frozen blueberry; since when is *any processing* the enemy? That would include brining pickles and lunch meats, for example.

  14. Rhonda Schmall, please share your recipe debra.sieracki@aurora.org

  15. Hi Rhonda, would you please send me the meatball recipe….thank you!

  16. Austin Berryhill June 13, 2019 at 7:40 pm · Reply

    Hey Rhonda, I would like to know about that meatball recipe as well! Austin.berryhill@advocatehealth.com

  17. Why do vegans and vegetarians want something that looks and tastes like meat. Why not create your own favourites? If you enjoy a meat free diet you don’t have to copy omnivores and opportunavores food. Come up with something unique that may entice meat lovers to give it a try?

About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.