Research Brief

Are plant-based ground beef alternative products healthier than ground beef?

Veggie burger patties on a wooden cutting board

A growing number of Americans are giving plant-based ground beef alternative products a try, with the aim of eating healthier and protecting the environment.

To find out if plant-based products are in fact healthier, University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) researchers studied the nutritional quality of plant-based ground beef alternative products compared to that of ground beef. Their findings were recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 

To make the comparison, researchers used the SPH Nutrition Coordinating Center (NCC) Food and Nutrient Database, which includes 37 plant-based ground beef alternative products produced by nine food companies. 

The study found:

  • Plant-based ground beef alternative products available in the U.S. marketplace tend to be a good or excellent source of a number of nutrients such as fiber, folate and iron.
  • Most of the plant-based ground beef alternative products contained substantially lower amounts of saturated fat than ground beef. 
  • Among the plant-based ground beef alternative products examined, most contained substantially less protein, zinc and vitamin B12 than ground beef. 
  • Many plant-based products contained moderate to high amounts of sodium.

“Switching from ground beef to a plant-based ground beef alternative product can be a healthy choice in some ways,” said study lead Lisa Harnack, a professor in SPH. “We recommend that people read the Nutrition Fact panel to choose a product that best aligns with their health and nutrition goals.”

Harnack added that it’s important to examine the nutritional quality of other plant-based meat alternative products, such as those intended to replace chicken, pork and seafood.

The study was funded in part by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.


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