Soy burgers, fake meats, and bleeding veggie burgers are not necessarily superior as meat substitutions. With the rise of accessible plant based major brands such as The Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat and Quorn, people are jumping on the vegetarian bandwagon and wanting to try a meatless burger. Let me preface my thoughts by saying that I think a plant based diet can be quite healthy if it is done in a natural way.
WHEN A MEAT ALTERNATIVE CAN BE HEALTHY
Vegetarian proteins that have not been altered and denatured such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds along with naturally fermented natto and tempeh can be quite healthy- especially when served with an abundance of fresh vegetables. What’s concerning is that lab grown meats are highly processed! In fact, most of the popular “veggie” burgers do not contain any vegetables that you would find in your garden.
THE PROTEINS IN A MEATLESS BURGER
It’s not unlikely that the protein in these burgers may come from Genetically Modified soy. Although soy has been touted as a health food, genetically modified soy is a completely different issue. GM soy may be run through a solvent called hexane which is a neurotoxin. Additionally, GM soy is often sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer which contains a known carcinogen called glyphosate.
Pea protein isolate is another protein used in one of the popular veggie burgers. While this is still better than GM soy, some people may still have a sensitivity to it even if they don’t have issues with peas on their own. The isolate form is more concentrated than peas alone and even individuals that have a legume or peanut allergy may experience a reaction (even if a plant based burger using pea protein isolate doesn’t actually contain peanuts). Other ingredients found in almost all of these burgers is Yeast Extract which can be another name for MSG – along with fillers no one pays attention to such as methylcellulose (a key ingredient in Citrucel the laxative).
What Processed Foods Do To Our Gut
There is a lot of new scientific research coming out now regarding the microbiome (the trillions of bacteria in the intestinal track) and its role on immune and mental health. Over 70% of our immune system lives in the gut, so a healthy biome is critical. Additionally, there is a direct link between the gut and the brain (known as the gut brain axis). Gut microbes communicate to the central nervous system and can directly affect our mood and even be responsible for anxiety or depression. When we eat processed foods (fake meats fall into this category), this can alter the microbiome in an unhealthy way.
Additionally, food sensitivities are becoming more prevalent. It’s not only in cosmopolitan areas these days that your server in a restaurant will ask you if you have any allergies before preparing your dish. For anyone with sensitive digestion, or autoimmune disease – faux meats can be risky. The reason I mentioned autoimmune disease is because that subset of people tend to be intolerant to foods like gluten, dairy, soy, yeast, sugar and especially chemicals…
IS The Meatless Burger Less Fattening?
People who are weight conscious may also be under the misconception that these popular plant-based burgers are less fattening and lower in calories. Surprisingly, these meatless burgers now swapping out beef patties in fast food restaurants contain the same amount of calories and fat as a Burger King Whopper and actually even contain more sodium! The only real upside is that a meatless burger contains zero cholesterol.
If you choose to be a vegetarian it has to be well thought out. It’s reasonable to want to follow that lifestyle because it’s more humane and better for the planet. Although, if done incorrectly with processed foods, you won’t be doing any favors for your health.
Better Ways to Stay Healthy as an Omnivore
- Cut back on your servings of meat to once per week
- Choose ethical producers that care about animal welfare and treat their animals humanely
- Purchase from local farmers rather than meat flown in from faraway places that are responsible for gas emissions
- Choose meats that are grass fed as well as hormone and antibiotic free
- Avoid processed meats such as hot dogs and lunch meats