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Vegan Foods

Burgers: A Revolution in Plant-based Protein

plant based burgers

There are few things more satisfying than biting into a juicy, bloody burger — but what if said burger was made from plant-based protein instead of ground beef? A new revolution in vegan protein has begun, and it’s all about the burger. These plant-based proteins “bleed” and resemble actual beef more than any vegan products before. But why are we calling them “meat?” And why would someone who has eschewed eating meat want a product that so closely resembles the thing they’re trying to avoid?

Why Choose Plant based Protein?

Some health-conscious consumers have removed meat from their daily intake for purely dietary reasons. For them, these imitator products are welcomed with a fervor. Products like Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger so closely approximate a beef patty that herbivores can indulge in the very things they’ve had to give up. High cholesterol? Sink your teeth into a juicy Impossible Burger and you’ll barely know the difference. Suffering from an illness that benefits from a plant-based diet? Grill up a Beyond Burger when a meat craving strikes and feel satiated without the side effects.

But should those who have chosen the vegan lifestyle and do so for political reasons be seeking a product that acts like meat? Vegan protein in the form of beans is great — but a burger that “bleeds” seems like it’s copying a product that animal activist’s should be steering clear of. These burgers mimic the very thing that some vegans are adamantly opposed to — so is it better to stick to quinoa bowls and cauliflower cutlets than to attempt to consume a product that resembles all that they are opposed to?

Vegan Protein is the Food Revolution

Health issues aside, the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger are revolutionizing the way we eat. It’s no secret that the meat industry is bad for the environment. Raising livestock for consumption requires a staggering amount of land, food, energy, and water and produces a significant amount of our greenhouse-gas emissions. And red meat is even worse. Beef and lamb are responsible for 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as most vegetables and grains, according to Scientific American.

So a burger that approximates meat without the detrimental side effects should be welcome on any restaurant’s menu and on the shelves of every grocery store. Take the Impossible Burger. Scientists, farmers, and chefs collaborated for five years to recreate the perfect beef burger without harming a single cow. By shunning cows in favor of all-natural ingredients like wheat, coconut oil, and potatoes, the Impossible Burger uses a fraction of the Earth’s natural resources. “Compared to cows, the Impossible Burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s 100% free of hormones, antibiotics, and artificial ingredients,” according to Impossible Foods’ website. And the secret ingredient that makes the Impossible Burger stand out from its plant-based peers is a little things called heme. Heme, an iron-containing compound, makes meat smell, sizzle, bleed, and is the “magic ingredient” that makes this burger stand up to its carnivorous competition.

Impossible Burgers can be found at several restaurants around the country, but if you’re hankering for a home-cooked patty, look no further than the Beyond Burger. This revolutionary burger was the first plant-based product that looks, cooks, and satisfies like beef without the harmful repercussions, and at a fraction of the price of the Impossible Burger. This patty is made primarily from pea protein, with a “bleeding” element from beet juice.

So how do you feel about lab-made, realistic vegetarian burgers? Would you go veg for them or not?

No Added Sugar: Granola Bar Brands Get Fruity

granola bar brands get fruity

With the onslaught of trendy diets and health-conscious companies, more and more granola bar brands are eschewing sugar in favor of natural sweeteners. Forget those granola bars that are basically thinly veiled candy bars. Now, granola bar brands are replacing refined sugars with dried fruits and dark chocolate chips. But does that make them inherently “good?”

Granola has a reputation as being a health food product, but most store-bought granola and granola bar brands are loaded with processed sugars, oil, preservatives, and tons of carbs. Nature Valley, Special K, Quaker Oats, and Fiber One bars are chock full of nasty additives. Balance bars, for instance, are overloaded with ingredients you’d find in your average liquor store candy bar. The deceptively named bars include  Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat flavor that boasts a whopping 23% of your daily saturated fat, 22 grams of carbs, and 12 grams of sugar (from sweeteners like brown rice syrup, cane syrup, and tapioca syrup). According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average man should consume 37.5 grams of sugar in a day and the average woman should intake 25 grams. So your “healthy” bar leaves little room for a spoonful of sugar in your morning coffee or for a post-dinner treat.

You’d think, then, that so-called energy bars and meal replacement bars would be a better bet. But no —  bar brands with a health halo, like Odwalla, Kashi, and Clif, can be as injurious to your health as their more mass-produced counterparts. Take, for instance, thinkThin’s High Protein Bars, which claim to be a healthy meal replacement alternative and boast being “sugar free.” Look closely and you’ll see that these bars may not contain any added sugar, but they do contain sugar alcohols, in the form of maltitol syrup and glycerin. What does this mean? Sugar alcohol allows companies to legally claim “sugar free” status but these bars are chock-full of artificial sweeteners, which are arguably more detrimental than natural sugar.

So what bars should we be eating? Forget the granola. Instead, look to bars that get a power punch from nuts and seeds, dried fruits, and egg whites.

Granola Bar Brands Get Fruity 

The grams of sugar in fruit are not processed and are more easily recognized by your body than processed sweeteners. Opt for a bar that uses dates, cherries, or blueberries as their sugary element. The gluten-free Pineapple Chia Energy Bars from Amrita Health Foods get a sweet and tart flavor from organic pineapple and heft from chia seeds. They use no artificial or other sweeteners for each bar’s 11 sugar grams –tasty without being unhealthy. You can also find fruit-sweetened bars from Larabar, which mostly contain fewer than six ingredients, like dates, apples, walnuts, and cinnamon, per bar. The latest entrant into the market, ZEGO Just Fruit Bar makes bars such as Raspberry which are sweetened only with raspberry concentrate and apple juice.

Go Nuts for Nuts & Grains

Nut and grain bars are often targeted at a more health-conscious consumer. KIND Bars are a healthy and simple combination of dried fruit, various nuts, and the occasional chocolate chip. It’s basically like eating trail mix in bar form. They do, however, tend to have a bit of added glucose, so try their Healthy Grains Bar with at least five super grains and sweetened with natural ingredients like chocolate and honey. Awesome Bars are also an awesome way (yeah, we went there) to indulge in a granola-based, nutty bar without questionable ingredients.

Pack a Protein Punch from Egg Whites

RXBAR is the newcomer on the scene, and they blow the competition out of the water with a staggeringly simple base ingredient list that includes egg whites, almonds, cashews, and dates. Each flavor gets a burst of sweetness from blueberries, mixed berries, chocolate, or coconut. But the 17 grams of sugar in their Blueberry Bar, like its additive-heavy competitors, still gets you halfway to your total daily sugar consumption. Buyer beware.

 

4 Healthy, Delicious Things You Can Eat As a Vegan

things you can eat as a vegan

When Beyonce wore a KALE sweatshirt in her 7/11 music video, it became clear the super food was popular beyond being one of the healthiest things you can eat as a vegan. But while you can find kale everywhere, there are plenty of other high-protein vegan foods that could be on the verge of garnering a similar mainstream following. Increasingly, consumers are turning to foods historically reserved for vegetarians and vegans, as they come packed with protein and vitamins. In fact, these four up-and-coming vegetarian and vegan food businesses have some of the newest, most delicious things you can eat as a vegan (or even just a health-conscious carnivore).

Things You Can Eat As a Vegan

Super food: Moringa
Recommended Company: Kuli Kuli

Moringa oleifera is a horseradish tree found in India, Pakistan and Nepal. The edible parts of the plant, most often consumed after being ground into powder, come packed with good stuff: tons of iron (moringa is especially appealing as a vegan source of iron) plus calcium; protein; potassium; and vitamins A, C and E. If you’re looking for high-protein vegan foods specifically, you’re in the right place. Kuli Kuli is one company selling the super food, and its products offer a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids. In addition to pure moringa powder, you can buy snack bars, shots and tea. Kuli Kuli also only harvests fresh, young leaves, which is supposed to make the snack less bitter.

Super food: Pea powder
Recommended Company: Naked Pea

It can be tough to find vegan protein powder, as most mainstream brands use whey from dairy in their products. But not Naked Pea. This vegan pea protein powder company sells powder made solely from yellow peas—all grown on environmentally-friendly farms in the United States and Canada. It’s one of the most protein-dense vegan foods, with 27 grams of protein per serving and no added ingredients. Blend it up with our next recommendation on this list, and you’re only a few ingredients away from a healthy, vegan smoothie.

Super food: Plant-based milk
Recommended Company: Califia Farms

Nuts are one of the most protein-packed things you can eat as a vegan. But if you’re bored of snacking on them raw, nut-based milk is a great alternative. Of all the items on this list, plant-based milk seems the most likely to reach kale-level popularity. In fact, sales have grown over 14% annually in recent years as more consumers shy away from straight dairy. Califia Farms is one vegan company cashing in on this trend; it makes a wide variety of milk and creamers from nuts, seeds, fruits and roots. Almond is the most popular ingredient, likely because it’s one of the most high-protein vegan foods out there.

Super food: Navy beans
Recommended Company: Beanfields Snacks

Navy beans—named because they were a staple of the U.S. Navy in the early 1900s—are also a great high-protein vegan food, as they’re also fat free. But the main reason they’re rounding out this list is because you can eat them in everyone’s favorite food form: as a chip! Beanfields is using rice and beans to remove the guilt from snacking. All their chips, such as Barbecue Bean and Rice, use just four ingredients—navy beans, brown rice, safflower or sunflower oil and sea salt—and in turn come packed with five grams of protein and six grams of fiber per serving. Not bad for something that usually qualifies as junk food!