Veggie burgers aren't as healthy as you think they are. Here's why

People choose to eat vegetarian for a wide variety of reasons. Animal-lovers may prefer to eat cruelty-free as much as possible, since there's really no way around that particular ethical dilemma. Short of scavenging roadkill, meat consumption means you pretty much are aiding and abetting an industry whose practices aren't always the best. Other people eat vegetarian for religious reasons, although these prohibitions may also have their roots in a "no-kill" philosophy. Still others may be living primarily on ramen noodles where the "chicken" or "beef" flavor is more of a wish than a reality.

If you're eating vegetarian because you believe it's better for your health, though, this may not always be true — especially when it comes to choosing veggie burgers over the beef or turkey version. According to Emily Gelsomin, senior clinical nutrition specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital (via Harvard Health Publishing), "Meatless burgers are good for the planet, but not always good for our health."

What's wrong with veggie burgers?

Veggie burgers are highly processed foods, so they are actually anything but natural despite being plant-based. They are also surprisingly high in fat — not only supposed meat taste-alikes such as Beyond and Impossible burgers, but also veggie burgers made from black beans can have amounts of saturated fat as high (or even higher) than beef burgers, and they're quite a bit fattier than turkey burgers (which do have a tendency to be dry). What's more, some veggie burgers may have a sodium content triple or even quadruple that of meat burgers.

Even scarier is the fact that any veggie burgers made with soy may include hexane, a petrochemical solvent that's a byproduct of gasoline refining. Despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency lists hexane as a hazardous air pollutant, the Cornucopia Institute says this potentially dangerous substance is widely used in soy processing. According to a guide they published, there are some brands of veggie burgers that are hexane-free, but a number of popular plant-based burgers may well contain this highly dubious ingredient — so buyer beware.