For meatless eaters, finding the best veggie burgers can be tough. Add a healthy dose of mustard, Vegenaise and homemade BBQ in between those toasted buns, and it'd be tough to notice that your thick, juicy lunch came from the garden. But, unfortunately, new evidence is showing that not all veggie burgers are created equal. Some are bad to the bone … and not the good kind.
Though you may not have recalled the waitress asking if you wanted any toxic chemicals with your fries, there's a chance you ordered it. Before you devote yourself to an air diet, here's what you need to know about the latest food villain: hexane.
What is hexane?A neurotoxin derived from petroleum.
How is it harmful? Hexane is listed as a "hazardous air pollutant" by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is linked to skin disorders and complications in the nervous system. However, studies have been inconclusive and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate it.
What's it doing in your veggie burger?According to the agricultural non-profit Cornucopia Institute, hexane is used to process most non-organic soy ingredients in vegetarian burgers, protein shakes, and energy bars, and is commonly used to remove or lower fat content. To our most utter dismay, the chemical can also be found in vegetable oils (depending on the extraction method).
Are any veggie burgers safe to eat? Yes, if they are entirely organic or soy-free. Conventional veggie burger products simply labeled as "natural", "pure" or "made with organic ingredients" will most likely have hexane. Products like tempeh and tofu that are made with whole soy beans are usually all good in the hood. Boca Burger and Morningstar have veggie burgers that are made with soy and are totally hexane-free.
What's a girl to do? Buy organic whenever possible, especially when it comes to soy, and beware of products labeled as low-fat or fat-free. Perhaps this scare will encourage you to take a break from the bean and focus on eating other whole foods like grains and fresh produce. If you've got a hankering for a veggie burger, here are some of the best veggie burgers that are soy-free alternatives:
Sunshine Burgers.Made from ground raw sunflower seeds, sea salt and farm fresh grains and produce, Sunshine Burgers contain no soy or wheat. Available in the frozen foods section at Whole Foods and Wild Oats.www.sunshineburger.com
Bahama Rice Burgers. Preservative, cholesterol and gluten-free, Bahama Rice Burgers come in a handful of dee-lish flavors like Grand Beach, Tuscany Italian, Swingin' Italian Sausage, Jerkin' Spicy and Pineapple-Mango, just to name a few. Available at some Whole Foods. www.bahamariceburger.com
Amy's Organic California Veggie Burger. Made from fresh organic grains, veggies and protein-rich soy, Amy's babies are light in sodium and nil in cholesterol. Another company that makes a variety of flavors, including Texas Veggie and Cheddar Veggie burgers. Available at Whole Foods and major grocery retailers. www.amys.com
Asherah's Gourmet Organic Quinoa Vegan Burgers.Asherah's quarter-pound gourmet burgers are made from quinoa and organic veggies. Plus, they're soy-free. Available at some Whole Foods. www.asherahsgourmet.com
How about making your own veggie burger from scratch. Try this recipe for a chickpea burger that will impress any of your meat-eating friends. Wanna take it a step farther? Write to the food businesses and tell them that you refuse to buy their products if they contain hexane. After all the outrage, Amy's Organic recently announced that they stopped using ingredients processed with the chemical.
Way to make us proud, Amy.
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