Should we stop calling hamburgers vegetable burgers?

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 discussed in the European Parliament if labeling these products of plant origin as "hamburgers" is legitimate or should be called vegetable discs for not to confuse the consumer because (oh, surprise) they are called hamburgers but they don't carry meat.

“Actually, I don't see the problem of calling them hamburgers, because they are a steak product after all. For me, what is really problematic is what they carry and whether they are healthy or not, ”he explains Marian García, nutritionist, pharmacist and professor at the Isabel I University… and he is right, why debate the name and discuss what this vegetable meat is made of?

A resource (punctual) for those who cannot cook

Any of us can make their own veggie burgers at home with legumes and vegetables, 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 ready meals. In fact, we already take 14 kg of them a year and very high in the ranking of the chosen ones are the options that make the nutrition experts tremble: cannelloni, pizzas, nuggets … according to data from the Spanish Association of Prepared Dishes (ASEFAPRE).

Not all vegetable burgers are the same, look on the label, and you'll see which one is the best.

The million-dollar question is whether new plant meats have reached our lives to swell the list of ultraprocessed that we must 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 soy, they also carry oils (which do not have to be the healthiest), enough salt, additives… ”, says Marian García.

The good news is that among the new alternatives of vegetable meat, not all are equal. 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 has 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 to punctual use and none is sustainable if we compare them with lentils or peas. I think it's fantastic that these alternatives exist, but let's not think they are healthier no more sustainable to produce some lentils or peas, because they are not, ”explains the expert.

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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 to 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 healthy 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. Vegetable protein and animal protein they are not equal, nor in the bad (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 alternatives not the healthiest”, Concludes the expert.

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