Are veggie burgers actually healthier?

Veggie burgers have become increasingly popular in recent years as more people look to reduce their meat intake for health or ethical reasons. Many people assume that swapping a beef burger for a veggie patty is automatically healthier. But is this really the case? Let’s take a closer look at the nutrition facts.

Ingredients in veggie burgers

There are a huge variety of veggie burger options available, containing different base ingredients like beans, lentils, quinoa, mung beans, nuts, mushrooms, and more. Some are made to mimic the taste and texture of beef as closely as possible, while others don’t try to imitate meat at all. The specific ingredients used vary widely between brands and products.

Some of the most common ingredients found in veggie burgers include:

  • Beans – kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas
  • Grains – wheat, oats, rice, quinoa, millet
  • Vegetables – mushrooms, carrots, beetroot, peas, sweetcorn
  • Nuts and seeds – almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Eggs and dairy – used as binding agents in some veggie burgers
  • Soy protein or wheat gluten – added for texture
  • Oils – used for cooking the burgers
  • Starchy binders – like potato starch or tapioca
  • Seasonings – salt, pepper, spices, herbs

The wide range of potential ingredients makes it tricky to generalize about the nutrient profile of veggie burgers as a whole. They can range from relatively healthy to highly processed.

Nutritional comparison

To get a better understanding of how veggie burgers compare to beef patties, let’s look at some of the key nutrients side-by-side:

Nutrient (per patty) Beef burger Veggie burger
Calories 230 130-260
Total fat 15g 5-17g
Saturated fat 6g 1-4g
Protein 19g 10-20g
Fiber 0g 2-10g
Sodium 370mg 350-900mg

As you can see, there is considerable variation in the nutritional content of veggie burgers based on the specific brand and ingredients. But some general trends emerge:

  • Veggie burgers tend to be lower in calories, fat, and saturated fat compared to beef patties.
  • Protein content can be similar if using protein-rich ingredients like beans, soy, quinoa.
  • Veggie patties provide fiber, unlike all-beef burgers which have none.
  • Sodium content varies widely but can be higher in some veggie burgers.

Potential benefits of veggie burgers

Replacing red meat with plant-based veggie burgers offers some potential health advantages:

  • Less saturated fat and cholesterol – Reducing intake of saturated fat and cholesterol may help lower risk of heart disease.
  • More fiber – Most veggie burgers contain 2-10g of fiber per serving, while beef burgers have none. Fiber promotes digestive and heart health.
  • Phytochemicals – Beans, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds contain beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants and polyphenols.
  • Lower calorie density – Being lower in fat and calories can help with weight management.

Replacing two servings of red meat per week with plant proteins like veggie burgers has been linked to decreased risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

Potential downsides of veggie burgers

However, veggie burgers also come with some disadvantages:

  • Highly processed – Heavily processed veggie burgers with refined carbs, oils, salt and chemical additives are not as healthful.
  • Lower protein – Per calorie, most veggie burgers supply less protein compared to beef.
  • Nutrient deficiencies – Beef provides more highly bioavailable iron and zinc than most veggie burgers.
  • Higher sodium – Some varieties are very high in sodium, which increases risk of high blood pressure.

When choosing veggie burgers, be wary of products that are high in sodium, refined carbs, and additives. Also, enjoy them in moderation as part of a balanced diet to mitigate potential nutrient deficiencies.

Tips for choosing healthier veggie burgers

When shopping for veggie burgers, keep these tips in mind to choose the most nutritious options:

  • Check the ingredient list – Try to choose veggie burgers with whole foods like beans, grains, veggies, nuts and seeds. Avoid long lists of processed additives.
  • Watch out for sodium – Look for under 400mg sodium per serving.
  • Pick higher protein options – Choose burgers with 15-20g protein per serving to help you stay full.
  • Look for added nutrients – Some are fortified with iron, zinc, B12 and fiber for extra benefits.
  • Consider homemade – Making your own lets you control ingredients and skip additives.

Healthier veggie burger recipes

Here are a few delicious homemade veggie burger recipe ideas that are packed with wholesome nutrition:

Black Bean Beet Burgers

These are flavorful veggie burgers featuring fiber-rich black beans, antioxidant-packed beets, and savory southwest spices. Oats and egg help bind them.

Quinoa and Chickpea Burgers

Made with protein-rich quinoa and chickpeas, these flavorful patties contain no added salt or oil. Baba ganoush makes a creamy condiment.

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

Bulgur wheat, lentils, carrots, onion and parsley give these burgers a nutrition boost. Serve in warm pita pockets with hummus and tzatziki.

Tofu and Vegetable Burgers

These vegan burgers get protein from tofu and plenty of added vegetables. Turmeric and cumin lend them Southwest flair.


Veggie burgers can vary widely in their nutritional content based on ingredients and preparation methods. Choosing whole food-based varieties with less salt and fewer additives can offer benefits over beef like more fiber, vitamins and minerals. But heavily processed options high in sodium, refined carbs and additives should be consumed in moderation.

For the most benefits, enjoy veggie burgers made with whole, nutrient-dense ingredients as part of a balanced diet that also includes lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and healthy fats. Homemade veggie burgers let you take control over the ingredients. With a little effort, veggie burgers can be a delicious and nutritious alternative to typical beef burgers.

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