While it has had its ups and downs, the plant-based burger market has experienced substantial growth over the past decade, driven by increasing consumer awareness of health, environmental, and ethical issues related to meat consumption. 

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In 2022, the plant-based burger market size reached $4.8 billion and is projected to grow to $15.6 billion by 2032

The meatless burger market has two distinct segments: the old-school veggie-forward burgers and the new-school burger, characterized by its approximation to beef. But which one is the healthiest? We asked a few experts to weigh in. 

The evolution of the veggie burger

Veggie burgers have come a long way since their inception in the early 1980s. The first commercial veggie burger, the VegeBurger, was introduced in 1982 by Gregory Sams in the United Kingdom. These early burgers were primarily made from vegetables, grains, and legumes, catering to a niche market of vegetarians.

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The 1990s saw the introduction of brands such as Boca Burger and Gardenburger in the United States, which helped popularize veggie burgers among mainstream consumers. These early versions were often criticized for their bland taste and dry texture.

The new millennium brought significant advancements in food technology, leading to the development of plant-based burgers that closely mimic the taste and texture of meat. In 2016, it was a big year for the “bleeding” plant-based burger as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods launched their respective burger patties that year. 

These products used innovative ingredients such as pea protein, soy protein, and heme to replicate the sensory experience of eating beef. 

RELATED: “A Hearty Debate” Concludes Plant-Based Meat Alternatives Are Healthier for Your Heart Than Meat


Which meatless burger is healthier? 

Why choose a meatless burger instead of beef in the first place? Scientific research continues to uncover the negative effects of consuming animal-derived meat

Most recently, a study from the University of Edinburgh found that reducing processed meat intake by one-third could prevent over 350,000 cases of diabetes and tens of thousands of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer cases in the US over 10 years.

Which veggie burgers reign supreme? Let’s take a look. 

Old-school veggie burgers: wholesome and nutritious

Old-school veggie burgers, such as those from Dr. Praeger’s and Amy’s Kitchen, emphasize whole food ingredients and minimal processing. These burgers typically feature vegetables, grains, and legumes, offering a nutritious alternative.

Black-Bean-BurgerAmy’s Kitchen

James Cunningham, a health and fitness coach from Total Shape, says Amy’s Organic Black Bean Veggie Burger is a good choice for its low sodium content. “With only 350 milligrams of sodium per patty, it’s an excellent option for those looking to reduce their sodium intake,” Cunningham tells VegNews.

Amy’s burgers also use organic ingredients, including black beans and bulgur, making them a wholesome choice for health-conscious consumers.

Nutritionist Yasmin Ribiero explains that taking a holistic approach when it comes to veggie burgers is key.

“It’s essential to account for the overall nutritional profile when analyzing veggie burgers, taking into consideration not just singular metrics, but how they harmonize to contribute to a balanced diet,” Ribiero tells VegNews. 

She emphasizes the importance of considering the source of ingredients, noting that organic and non-GMO sources might be preferred by health-conscious consumers.

For Catherine Rall, a Registered Dietitian at Happy V, the veggie burgers made by MorningStar Farms are a good practical choice for many consumers. 

MorningStar BurgersMorningStar Farms

“While there are some burgers with objectively better nutritional content, like Engine 2’s Poblano Black Bean burgers, MorningStar Farms is a brand you can find in a lot more places, at much better prices,” Rall tells VegNews. 

While Rall acknowledges that these burgers may pose sodium concerns for some, their higher protein content and the complete protein provided by soy make them a nutritious choice. 

“They’re also available in a wide variety of flavors and styles, meaning you’ll have better luck finding one that works for you,” Rall says. 

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New-school meatless burgers: innovative and protein-rich

New-age veggie burgers, such as those made by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, aim to replicate the taste and texture of beef. These burgers use innovative ingredients such as pea protein, soy protein, and heme to achieve a meat-like experience.

Cunningham recommends the Beyond Burger for its high protein content. “With 20 grams of protein per patty, it’s an excellent option for post-workout recovery or as a protein-packed meal on the go,” he says. 

Over the years, Beyond Meat has continued to innovate the formulation of its plant-based meat products. Most recently, the company released both Beyond Burgers and Beyond Sausages made with avocado oil and healthful ingredients such as lentils and fava beans, slashing the saturated fat content to 2 grams per patty. 

For those prioritizing heart health, Cunningham points to the Impossible Burger, which has 6 grams of saturated fat per patty—still lower than the typical 9 grams in a traditional 80/20 beef patty. Impossible Foods also offers Impossible Beef Lite, a leaner burger meat option with just one gram of saturated fat per serving.

“I recommend Impossible Foods to my clients who are looking for a heart-healthy option,” Cunningham says. 

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Both the Beyond Burger and Impossible Beef Lite have attained heart-healthy checks from the American Heart Association. Whichever option you choose, Rall underscores the need to be mindful of individual health concerns, such as allergies to soy or gluten, which are common in many veggie burgers.

“Ultimately, the healthiest veggie burger is one that aligns with personal health goals, dietary restrictions, and nutritional needs,” Rall says.

And reaching for any of these meatless burgers is better for your heart health, according to a “hearty” debate published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology last month. This analysis concluded that plant-based meat alternatives are healthier for the heart than traditional meat, as they generally contain lower levels of saturated fats and do not raise blood pressure despite their sodium content. 

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