Article edited for scientific accuracy by Illuminate Labs Blog Editor Taylor Graber MD
With plant-based meats growing in popularity across the world, we thought it would be interesting to review the ingredients of some Beyond Meat products from a health perspective. Most reviews of the brand focus on cost and taste but neglect a research based review of whether or not their products are actually good for you.
In this article we’ll review the ingredients and Nutrition Facts of Beyond Burger patties, Beyond Breakfast sausage and Beyond Beef. We’ll compare the health benefits to regular meat and other plant based alternatives and suggest what we think the healthiest option is.
Beyond Burger Review
Beyond Burger is the most famous product from Beyond Meat. The plant-based patties have received a lot of attention for (apparently) tasting similar to beef.
The protein in Beyond Burgers comes from pea protein, which is an excellent choice of vegan protein since it’s a complete protein containing all essential amino acids. Pea protein has been proven in medical research to have almost identical effects on training as whey protein.
One ingredient which stands out to us is methylcellulose, which is a laxative. It’s used as a thickening agent in food products, but we find it to be a strange choice. There are other thickeners which aren’t primarily laxative in nature. It’s a safe ingredient but one we’d recommend avoiding due to potential discomfort.
This product contains “natural flavors” which as we discussed in our LMNT review, we would recommend avoiding. The term “natural” is essentially unregulated in foods and supplements, and could contain any range of chemicals; some will be harmful and some will not.
Without knowing exactly what chemicals are used, we can’t determine if they’ll be safe and for that reason we recommend avoidance.
Beyond Burgers contain a vitamin and mineral blend to make their Nutrition Facts label look better. We don’t agree with companies adding cheap synthetic vitamins to products as there’s no medical need and it may be harmful to consumers (because they get added vitamins from so many different processed food products).
Overall we believe this product is a decent formulation, but it is significantly less healthy than meat from pastured animals, which is more nutrient dense and has less questionable filler ingredients.
For people choosing Beyond Burgers for ethical rather than health reasons, we recommend a brand called Hilary’s which makes vegetarian burgers with no fillers or questionable ingredients. We have no association with this brand and make no money for mentioning them.
Beyond Breakfast Sausage Review
Beyond sausages have a similar formulation to Beyond Burgers and thus carry some of the same health risks in our opinion.
Natural flavors and methylcellulose are ingredients in this formulation, but the vitamin and mineral blend is gone so that makes this product better from a health perspective in our opinion.
Beyond Breakfast Sausage uses a calcium alginate casing. This compound is typically used for treating wounds, and we haven’t seen much research on its safety for ingestion. A collagen casing would be a more optimal ingredient here, but Beyond Meat likely opted to save money.
Overall, similar to the previous product, we find this to be a decent formulation but not one we would recommend.
We do believe this product is healthier than regular breakfast sausages, because processed meat is associated with increased all cause mortality, and it’s been suggested in recent medical research that the added nitrates and nitrites in processed meat like sausages are a key reason why.
Once again we recommend Hilary’s brand of vegan breakfast sausage over this product, because that brand uses no questionable ingredients and is formulated with entirely whole food ingredients.
Beyond Beef Review
Beyond Beef has an exactly identical formulation to Beyond Burgers, so we cannot recommend it. This product contains natural flavors, methylcellulose and a totally unnecessary added vitamin and mineral blend.
We believe, based on past medical studies, that pastured beef intake is healthier than this product. It’s more nutrient dense, contains no questionable ingredients, and we evolved eating it.
Unfortunately we haven’t found a plant based ground beef alternative for vegetarians and vegans with a healthier formulation that we would recommend, but if we come across one in the future we will update this article.
We’d recommend that vegetarians seeking ground beef just use the Hilary brand patties mentioned above as they can be reshaped into meatballs or whatever format needed.
Beyond Meat makes decent plant based meat alternatives, and their processed meat alternatives like sausages are likely healthier than the real thing.
However, we don’t recommend any of this brand’s products because of some of the additive ingredients they use. We recommend pastured meat as a healthier alternative for omnivores, and Hilary products as a healthier meat alternative for vegetarians and vegans.