You may have heard that Burger King is rolling out the Impossible burger — so named because it’s a plant-based burger.

You may have heard that Burger King is rolling out the Impossible burger — so named because it’s a plant-based burger.

Although veggie burgers and meat substitutes have been around for decades, today’s meat alternatives are being marketed to meat eaters, not just vegetarians.

The new plant-based burgers replicate a hamburger’s flavor, sizzle, texture, appearance and juiciness. Brands such as Impossible burger and Beyond Meat are two frontrunners in this rapidly developing market. Currently, Impossible Burger is sold only in restaurants, such as Burger King, while Beyond Meat burgers are available at local grocery stores. Many people are turning to a more plant-based diet for a variety of reasons, including:

Animal welfare concerns and disagreement with factory farming

Increased interest in healthy eating. According to the USDA, Americans ate 222.4 pounds of red meat (beef, pork, lamb) in 2018, which is five times the recommended amount.

Environmental concerns. Plant-based meats use less water and land and emit fewer greenhouse gasses than livestock production.

Increased number of people with sensitivities or allergies to red meat. Alpha-gal syndrome, which causes an allergic reaction to red meat, is spread by the Lone Star tick and is becoming more common.

What goes into these new meatless burgers? Make no mistake — these burgers are highly processed food. Both the Impossible burger and the Beyond Meat burger have long lists of ingredients. The first few ingredients of a Beyond burger include water, pea protein, canola oil, coconut oil and rice protein. The Impossible burger’s ingredients are similar, but soy protein replaces pea protein. To make the “meat” look more realistic, Beyond adds beetroot juice and the Impossible burger has developed a new ingredient called soy leghemglobin, which provides a bloody appearance and meaty flavor. This new ingredient was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which means you will soon see the Impossible burger in grocery stores.

How do these meat alternatives stack up nutritionally? In general, eating more plants is good for you, right? Not so much when it comes to these meat substitutes. You can see that the plant-based burgers are pretty similar to beef as far as calories, saturated fat and protein. Both the Beyond Meat and Impossible burgers add some vitamins and minerals to make the nutrition profile similar to beef.

The fiber in the meat alternatives comes from cellulose, which is used to hold everything together and isn’t that significant. Both meatless burgers contain a significant amount of sodium. Overall, one of these burgers is not any better for you nutritionally than a ground beef burger. It might make eating less red meat a little easier, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it is a health food or a good plant source. Keep in mind that these are highly processed foods, and beef has just one ingredient.

If you do try either of these burgers, you will be surprised at how good they taste. I’ve tried the Beyond Meat burger, and the texture and flavor were very similar to a hamburger, especially once you add a bun and condiments. Right now, the cost is higher than beef, but it is expected to be competitive soon. You are sure to see more and more meat alternatives on the market in the near future.

Meatless versions of chicken nuggets, sausage and tuna will be available soon. View all of these meat replacements just as you would red meat — fine to eat on occasion but not every day. Overall, aim for more whole and unprocessed plant-based foods.