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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Are MorningStar vegetarian products good for you?

How do you feel about MorningStar Products - the vegetarian burgers, sausages etc.. They seem to be made from soybeans, possess high quantities of fiber and protein, low in fat, high in B vitamins, but not overwhelming in sodium. Do you know how much Vitamin K they contain?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

A burger made with a processed veggie burger patty

I am always challenged by these sorts of products. For those who are vegetarian but want foods that resemble meat, they can be a good option. They are, however, highly processed, and it's hard to know what effect that might have on the otherwise healthy ingredients that they are made with.

One thing to keep in mind is that these are often very high in sodium. A strip of bacon or a sausage patty comes in at around 250 mg of sodium. You are correct that this is not overwhelming, but if you have two patties along with your eggs, the salt content can really add up.

We've reviewed some veggie burgers that are lower in sodium and are somewhat less processed than others. While we haven't yet reviewed Morningstar products, here is the list of veggie burgers we've reviewed so far.

Regarding the Vitamin K content of MorningStar products and other vegetarian meat replacements, it is impossible to say for sure.

Food manufacturers are not required by the USDA to test for Vitamin K content in their foods, as that information does not appear on the Nutrition Facts box (as you likely have noticed). Consequently these manufacturers do not include that requirement in an analysis (because why should they if they don't have to?) and that information simply doesn't exist.

This is basically the answer that we have received from querying multiple manufacturers of processed foods, from Lean Cuisine to MorningStar.

If you are on Coumadin (warfarin) and need to monitor your Vitamin K intake carefully, you have two options: avoid such products completely, or consume the identical amount of the identical product every day so that your intake of Vitamin K, whatever those products might contain, is consistent. (Assuming that one vegetarian meat substitute contains the same amount of Vitamin K as another could be dangerous.)

If you take the latter approach, have your physician monitor your INR carefully as you add such foods to your diet.

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet