(NaturalNews) Whether you're a strict vegetarian or simply an omnivore seeking to lower your intake of animal protein, you may find vegetarian convenience foods, such as veggie burgers, a tempting addition to your grocery cart. Beware, however, as many of the most readily available brands of veggie burgers betray the healthy impulse that makes you reach for them in the freezer section. The recipes for most commercial veggie burgers rely on industrial ingredients that may put your health at risk.
As you read the following ingredients lists, keep in mind that yeast extract, hydrolyzed proteins and autolyzed proteins are all hidden forms of MSG, containing "free glutamate."
Boca is one of the most readily available veggie burger brands, offered even in many grocery stores without a health food section. The label for Boca Burgers All American Flame Grilled patties lists these ingredients: water, soy protein concentrate, reduced fat cheddar cheese (pasteurized part-skim milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto (color), vitamin a palmitate), wheat gluten, corn oil, contains less than 2% of methylcellulose, hydrolyzed corn protein, wheat gluten and soy protein, salt, caramel color, cheese powder (cheddar cheese (milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), cream, salt, sodium phosphate, lactic acid), dried onions, yeast extract, natural flavor (non-meat), sesame oil, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, browned in corn oil.
Another readily available brand of meat substitutes is Morningstar Farms. The company's website describes its Quarter Pound Burger this way: "Our biggest better-for-you veggie burger is a super-satisfying quarter pound of authentic off-the-grill flavor." The ingredients listed on the package are: textured vegetable protein (soy protein concentrate, wheat gluten, water for hydration), corn oil, egg whites, calcium caseinate, contains two percent or less of modified tapioca starch, onion powder, mixed triglycerides, canola oil, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (corn gluten, wheat gluten, soy protein), dextrose, soy protein isolate, natural and artificial flavors, salt, yeast extract, sugar, caramel color, whey*, methylcellulose, spice, garlic powder, maltodextrin, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, soy sauce (water, soybeans, salt, ethyl alcohol, wheat), autolyzed yeast extract, ascorbic acid, thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin b1), niacinamide, sesame seed oil, soy lecithin, iron (ferrous sulfate), thiamin mononitrate (vitamin b1), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin b6), riboflavin (vitamin b2), vitamin b12.
About.com's Vegetarian section lists Amy's Texas Burger among its "Top 5 Best Tasting Veggie Burgers." This burger contains: textured soy protein (hexane free), organic soy fiber, organic onions, organic mushrooms, wheat gluten, filtered water, organic tomato puree, organic bulgur wheat, organic celery, organic evaporated cane juice, organic carrots, organic oats, organic walnuts, sea salt, organic potatoes, organic apple cider vinegar, organic blackstrap molasses, organic bell peppers, expeller pressed high oleic safflower and/or sunflower oil, organic garlic, natural hickory smoke flavor, grain vinegar, ground mustard seeds, spices*, black pepper.
[Editor's note: Amy's Texas Burger is one of the few veggie burger products on the market containing no hidden sources of MSG.]
Another very popular brand is Gardenburgers. Their Original veggie burger is comprised of: vegetables (button mushrooms, onions, crimini mushrooms, portabella mushrooms), cooked brown rice (brown rice, water), rolled oats, mozzarella cheese (pasteurized part-skim milk, cultures, salt, enzymes), water, bulgur with water for hydration, parsley, cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes, cultures, annatto for color), contains two percent or less of yeast extract, natural flavor, modified vegetable gum, salt, mushroom extract, garlic powder, autolyzed yeast extract, spices, citric acid, malted barley, natural butter flavor, whey, dehydrated onion, annatto for color, dehydrated mushrooms, guar gum, natural smoke flavor, turmeric for color, soy lecithin.
Learn How to Read the Labels
One important factor in choosing veggie burgers is to know that those made to mimic a meat taste usually rely on textured vegetable protein, often referred to as TVP. Unless the label specifically states otherwise, TVP is made by processing soybeans using the neurotoxin hexane (http://www.naturalnews.com/033728_TVP_textur...). If you want a diet that avoids chemicals, as well as one which is more eco-friendly, you will want to avoid most products containing TVP.
Reading the labels for veggie burgers can be tricky. It is important to know that there are many ways for food manufacturers to hide the presence of MSG in their products. (You can find a list of MSG aliases that you may want to compare to the above ingredient lists here: http://www.truthinlabeling.org/hiddensources...).
Become an educated grocery shopper -- know the meaning of the ingredients listed on your favorite products. Choose veggie burgers not only based on whether they contain dairy or gluten, but with an awareness of the impact of industrial ingredients on the food you serve your family.