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Are Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger Healthy?

Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger: A Look at Their Health Benefits

“Are Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger Healthy?” Global meat production has skyrocketed over the last half century with pork and poultry meat now exceeding 100 megatons a year, a hundred million tons, and this growing demand is unsustainable.The reduction of animal products is arguably one of the most impactful ways in which individual consumers can alter their diets to positively impact individual and societal well-being.And there’s definitely growing interest in plant-based diets and meat reduction.But even just something like meatless Mondays requires dietary change, and sadly neither sustainability or health approaches are likely to work with those who love their meat.But swapping in plant-based meat substitutes may help kind of disrupt the negativity about reducing meat, but for hardcore meat eaters it’s gotta taste like it and look like it.

Are Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger Healthy?

Better for the Planet, Better for Us: Plant-Based Burgers

It’s interesting: the more people consume meat substitutes, the less likely they are to care that it has a similar taste, texture, appearance, or smell of meat.But to appeal to those who really need them, the meatier the better.This has certainly been accomplished with the spate of new products on the market, with all studies agreeing that they’re healthier for the planet, but what about healthier for us?Comparing labels of the burgers and looking at four of the worst components of the food supply—trans fats, saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol— the plant-based burgers win hands down when it comes to trans fat and cholesterol.We all know trans fat is a serious potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes, but it’s also been recently associated with symptoms of depression, lower testosterone in men— even at just 1% of calories—and dementia.

The Tolerable Upper Daily Intake Level for Trans Fat

Higher levels of trans fats in the blood are associated with up to 50% higher risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s.Now that partially hydrogenated oils have been phased out of the food supply, the only major source of trans fats left will be from animal products.What’s the tolerable upper daily intake level for trans fat?An upper limit was not set for trans fat by the Institute of Medicine because any incremental increase in trans fat intake increases the risk of heart disease, the #1 killer of men and women— as in any intake above zero.Because trans fatty acids are unavoidable in diets that contain meat or dairy, consuming zero trans fat would require significant changes in patterns of dietary intake.

How to make the best Burger: Outliers excluded

One of the authors of the report from Harvard’s nutrition department offered a memorable explanation for why the Institute of Medicine panel didn’t cap it at zero. “We can’t tell people to stop eating all meat and all dairy products,” he said. “Well, we could tell people to become vegetarians,” he added. “If we were truly basing this only on science, we would, but it is a bit extreme.” Wouldn’t want scientists to base anything on science now, would we?No.But anyways, that’s a big advantage, and of course no hormones, no antibiotics, hasn’t been designated as probably cancer-causing by the World Health Organization, and on and on.Now, I’m not happy with the added salt, which is about a quarter of the American Heart Association’s 1500 mg daily upper sodium limit, or the saturated fat, thanks to added coconut oil, but these do seem to be outliers.

Beyond Burgers – A Better Option Than Animal-Based Burgers

The largest study of the nutritional value of plant-based meats to date, saturated fat levels of similar products only average about 2 grams per serving, much better than the animal-based equivalent.Sodium remains a problem throughout the sector though, like nearly any other processed food out there.How processed are these products?Well, if you look at the fiber content, for example, yes, to see any fiber in a burger is a good thing, but compare that to a whole food.If you ate the same amount of protein from yellow peas, for example, the primary plant protein in Beyond Burgers, there’d be almost no saturated fat and sodium, and a whopping 20 grams of fiber.So yes, processing plants in a processing plant can eliminate 90% of the fiber, but processing plants through animals eliminates 100% of the fiber.

Which Burger King is the Best?

So of course, as the chair of Harvard’s nutrition department put it, “Nutrition policies and dietary guidelines should continue to emphasize a diet rich in whole plant foods such as nuts, seeds, and legumes or pulses, which are rich in protein and many other nutrients, but require little industrial processing.” But we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.Not everyone can go all kale and quinoa overnight.The choice on the Burger King menu isn’t between this and this, but between this and this, and in that case, it’s a no brainer..

Read More: Fun with Fermented Foods Podcast

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