Veggie burgers

If you’ve been reading my blog any length of time, you know that I love veggie burgers! I actually prefer them to any type of burger, believe it or not. I love that they come in so many different varities and flavors, no two are truly the same to me. That keeps me from getting bored which is always a plus.

But after I started this Crap Free Lifestyle, I got to thinking…why do veggie burgers have soooo many ingredients? And are they bad?

So I’ve decided to examine one of my personal favorites to find out…

Morningstar Farms Grillers Original (these are the ones I currently have at home and eaten this week)

serveimage1

Ingredients:

TEXTURED VEGETABLE PROTEIN (WHEAT GLUTEN, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WATER FOR HYDRATION), EGG WHITES, CORN OIL, CALCIUM CASEINATE, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF MODIFIED TAPIOCA STARCH, ONION POWDER, CANOLA OIL, TRIGLYCERIDES FROM COCONUT OIL, HYDROLYZED VEGETABLE PROTEIN (CORN GLUTEN, WHEAT GLUTEN, SOY PROTEIN), DEXTROSE, SALT, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, SUGAR, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS FROM NON-MEAT SOURCES, CARAMEL COLOR, CULTURED WHEY, MALTODEXTRIN, GARLIC POWDER, SPICE, CELLULOSE GUM, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE, SOY SAUCE (WATER, SOYBEANS, SALT, WHEAT), VITAMINS AND MINERALS (NIACINAMIDE, IRON [FERROUS SULFATE], THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE [VITAMIN B6], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], VITAMIN B12), SESAME SEED OIL, CELERY EXTRACT, SOY LECITHIN.

The nutritionals of this burger are nothing to worry about — only 130 calories, low fat, low cholesterol, some fiber, lots o’ protein. But what’s with that huge list? The word “hydrochloride” in particular stressed me out. Actually, anything with “hydro-” in it because I have learned from Anatomy class that your body does not need extra hydrogen, hence why saturated and trans fats are so bad for you (hydro-genated). It seems like the consensus on the ‘net is that veggie burgers contain a lot of salt.

I highlighted the ingredients I had questions about and then I did some digging. Since I know what soy sauce and salt are, I left those out 😉

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Dextrose (or glucose) is okay, it’s just a simple sugar. But check out this mad info about maltodextrin (just the “highlights”):

“Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide that is used as a food additive. It is produced from starch and is usually found as a creamy-white hygroscopic powder. Maltodextrin is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose, and might either be moderately sweet or might have hardly any flavor at all….

Other authorities on gluten maintain the source does not matter because maltodextrin is such a highly processed ingredient that the protein is removed, rendering it gluten free. If wheat is used to make maltodextrin, it will appear on the label. Even so, the maltodextrin will be gluten free.

Maltodextrin may contain monosodium glutamate or create MSG during processing.” — EWWW! (from Wikipedia.org)

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Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or HVP, is produced by boiling cereals or legumes, such as soy, corn, or wheat, in hydrochloric acid and then neutralizing the solution with sodium hydroxide. The acid hydrolyzes, or breaks down, the protein in vegetables into their component amino acids. The resulting brown powder contains, among other amino acids, glutamic acid, which consumers are more familiar with in the form of its sodium salt, monosodium glutamate, or MSG. It is used as a flavor enhancer in many processed foods.

Is it just me, or does that sound awful?

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Disodium guanylate (E627), also known as sodium 5′-guanylate and disodium 5′-guanylate, is the disodium salt of the flavor enhancer guanosine monophosphate (GMP). Disodium guanylate is a food additive and is commonly used in conjunction with glutamic acid (monosodium glutamate, MSG).

As it is a fairly expensive additive, it is not used independently of glutamic acid; if disodium guanylate is present in a list of ingredients but MSG does not appear to be, it is likely that glutamic acid is provided as part of another ingredient such as a processed soy protein complex. It is often added to foods in conjunction with disodium inosinate; the combination is known as disodium 5′-ribonucleotides.

Disodium guanylate is produced from dried fish or dried seaweed and is often added to instant noodles, potato chips and other snacks, savoury rice, tinned vegetables, cured meats, and packet soup.

Disodium guanylate is not safe for babies under twelve weeks, and should generally be avoided by asthmatics and people with gout, as guanylates are metabolized to purines [1]. Since it is often produced from fish, vegans and vegetarians may wish to avoid it unless the product is specifically labelled Vegan/Vegetarian. Such labels require the use of non-animal derived sources, such as seaweed or yeast.

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Disodium inosinate (E631), chemical formula C10H11N2Na2O8P, is the disodium salt of inosinic acid. It is a food additive often found in instant noodles, potato chips, and a variety of other snacks. It is used as a flavor enhancer, in synergy with monosodium glutamate (also known as MSG; the sodium salt of glutamic acid) to provide the umami taste.

As it is a fairly expensive additive, it is not used independently of glutamic acid; if disodium inosinate is present in a list of ingredients but MSG does not appear to be, it is possible that glutamic acid is provided as part of another ingredient or is naturally occurring in another ingredient like tomatoes, Parmesan cheese or yeast extract. It is often added to foods in conjunction with disodium guanylate; the combination is known as disodium 5′-ribonucleotides.

~~~

Soy Lecithin

From Wikipedia: “There are studies that show soy-derived lecithin has significant effects on lowering cholesterol and triglyceride, while increasing HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels in the blood.”

From Chow.com:

“According to registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association Tara Gidus, soy lecithin is not bad for you. Gidus herself takes it as a nutritional supplement, though not every day; while she was pregnant she occasionally sprinkled it on her breakfast cereal. “It’s high in choline, which is also found in egg yolks, and it’s shown to be good for brain development and heart disease prevention,” Gidus explains. “I wouldn’t make a blanket statement that all pregnant women should take it. It hasn’t been studied all that well, but it is a natural part of the soybean, and you can take it now and then, especially if you’re not a big egg eater.”

However, some of the few soy lecithin studies have shown that choline might help treat dementia. Other experiments showed a slight cholesterol decrease in humans and animals taking soy lecithin or choline supplements. Still, moderation is key—people who chronically take more than 3.5 grams of choline per day occasionally have experienced side effects, including low blood pressure, marked by fainting or dizziness.” 

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I think the moral of this story is, eat as few processed products as possible, right? Perhaps I should take a page from Meghann‘s book and make my own veggie burgers sometime?

Investigating my commonly used products may become a regular thing around here now that I am striving to be Crap Free 🙂

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About Sarah Frankel

I am 29 years old and a resident of Louisville, Kentucky. I've been married to my husband Josh for 6 years and we have a 5 year old beagle named Suzie. Four years ago, I changed my eating and exercise habits, dropping 70 pounds and gaining an entirely new life. I took up running in September 2007 and became vegan in October 2009. I am constantly striving to improve my life so that I can live it to the fullest! I hope you will join me on my life journey.

Posted on March 5, 2009, in products and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. There are some brands that aren’t as bad but they have a higher price tag (of course). Homemade is always cheaper and healthier – two wins 🙂

  2. What can we eat? Why do people not care? Do we all hate ourselves so much that we are willing to just kill ourselves with toxins in our food and environment? Sorry…ranting…done now. Thanks for the post. 🙂

  3. Thanks for such thorough analysis. Verrrry helpful! Great effort, very generous. All the best, Em

  4. Thank you for this interesting article (and all your research). I’m a registered dietitian and have wondered similarly on various kinds of highly processed products. I find it best to sick with a few (and real, whole food) ingredients rather than a laundry list such as that above. (The product claims and nutritional info. may be deceiving.)

    I’d be happy to make my own veggie burger if I ever find the time. It is a great concept (pack in more healthy veggies). To bad many of those type of food products contain so many additives, including excess sodium – that could do more harm than benefit to our bodies.

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