Where's the Beef?
Are Plant Based Burgers Healthy?
Are Plant Base Burgers Really Better Than Beef?
If you believe all the marketing then you'd probably say "yes of course!" In fact you've probably chosen a plant based burger at a restaurant over a beef one, maybe bought some at the grocery store. But are they really better for you? Are they really better for the environment? Around here, you know we like to dig a little deeper, and I don't think you're going to like what I found.
First a quick reminder: I'm not here to demonize food, to create guilt in you for your food choices, or to create food rules, BUT we do need to be able to have an honest conversation about foods that are healthier choices and those that aren't, and why. That's what this episode is - information to arm yourself with so you can make the healthiest choices for yourself as often as you can. Everything in moderation.
In this episode I'm mostly talking about the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Burger, and a regular beef burger. I'll compare them based on:
- ingredients and safety
- possible reactions
- protein source
- nutrients and bioavailability
Just because a burger says it's "plant based" does not automatically mean it's healthy. It's still a highly processed food, and in general we want to limit highly processed foods where we can. Just because a cookie is "gluten free" doesn't magically make it a health food. The same rule applies here! And in the case of some of these "plant based" burgers we're talking about the OPPOSITE of healthy! 😝
Full transcription available at the bottom of this post
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Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, you and I need to have a talk about what's up with these plant based burgers. What's actually in them? The marketing is strong when it comes to these things. But are they really healthy? Are they really good for you? Are they actually better than meat? Or are they even considered food, I'm gonna dive in, so you don't have to. And I think you might be surprised by what I found. Let's go
Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life at the process. Hey, I'm Tara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I'm on a mission to help you take back control of your mind health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health. Find food freedom. And finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back. You, my friend are powerful, and the world needs you to start showing up in a bigger way. It's time to get unstuck and start moving forward. So let's pop in those earbuds, tie up those shoes. Let's walk and talk.
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So today we're talking about these meatless “plant based” burgers. They're being advertised everywhere. You've seen them all over the place. They started in places like Burger King and White Castle and fast food restaurants. Now you can find them at mainstream restaurants, even some sort of fancier restaurants are carrying these plant based non meat burgers, you can buy them at Costco you can buy in the grocery store, like they're everywhere. So first of all, that should be your number one hint. Okay, any food that requires a multi million dollar marketing campaign, probably not a food, that's going to be super good for you, you could just use that as like a general rule across the board, you're not gonna see a commercial for kale. You're not gonna see a commercial for a vegetable. So just kind of keep that in the back of your mind as we are constantly inundated with messages about food and what's healthy for us. Always just keep in mind, is this food have a multimillion dollar marketing campaign? Perhaps I should pay attention to why that is. Maybe it's not actually food. Okay?
What the marketing is saying is like, Oh, this is so much better for you than beef for all these reasons. So I want to take this episode to dive in and really see if that's true. If the claims are true. Sure. Is this something you should be eating? And is the assumption that something you should be choosing instead of meat? So first off, here's the thing just because something is advertised as quote unquote, plant based does not mean that it's good for you. These burgers are highly processed foods. So just like if I was going to eat a gluten free cookie, and say, Well, it's a gluten free so it's good for me right? Know that just because it's gluten free doesn't mean it's a health food, it's still a cookie. So we need to keep these things where they belong. Just because these things are called quote unquote plant based does not mean that it's a healthy choice. Now on this podcast, and in my coaching, we're really careful to not categorize things as good food, bad food or only eat this don't eat that or make a lot of food rolls right. But we also at the same time need to have an honest conversation about what is going to actually be healthy for your body and what is less healthy for your body. That's still a conversation we can have without putting good food, good food, bad food categories on it. Does that make sense? So I really want to draw that distinction I want you to understand, I don't like to demonize food. But I also want you to be aware that, yes, some foods are going to be better for you than others. That's real. Okay. So I just want you to take all of this in context, just because something's plant based, doesn't mean it actually has any of the benefits of those plants. And it certainly doesn't mean that it's good for you.
So a lot of the problems you're gonna hear me talk about, have a lot to do with the Impossible Burger. Okay, so there's a few options. The two biggest ones that you see marketing for are Impossible Burger and beyond burger. Okay, so in the Impossible Burger, there is a lot of super shady ingredients. And there are some and beyond as well. But we'll talk about that in a sec. There's one particular ingredient in the Impossible Burger that is highly suspect for me, and I need you to know about it. And it's something it's the burger in and of itself as luck. Just I call it Franken food, like it's not real food. It's like weird, lab grown stuff that they put together in a burger looking thing and call it food. That doesn't mean it's food. And it doesn't mean your body recognizes it as food either. And that's something that we really need to consider. Does my body actually recognize this as food when it's food in these weird forms that I'm ingesting it? It makes sense. Okay, one super duper suspect ingredient in the Impossible Burger is called soy leghemoglobin or SLH for short for short. Soy leghemoglobin. It's the ingredient that makes the burger meat like juicy, meaty, sort of like bloody when you cook it, or what it looks like. It makes it look like a burger. But here's what it is. What they do is they take this genetically modified soybean and then they take out the SLH, they take out the soy leghemoglobin. And then they take some genetically modified yeast and they put that genetically modified SLH into the yeast and then they grow the yeast and like these huge vats, and then they ferment the yeast and then they remove the SLH from the genetically modified yeast. So then they put that ingredient into the burger, and it makes it like bloody meaty looking or whatever. Okay, I know it's gross. I mean, it truly that's what it is. It's just it's really disgusting, honestly. But it gets even worse, because they created this right? Because they wanted to make it like burger like, right, they wanted to make it seem like an actual burger. So FDA has to approve food additive products like this, you have to get FDA approval in order to put these modified lab grown things into food. Well, the FDA was like, No, you can't use that ingredient. The FDA doesn't really allow SLH and food, because he hears their main concern. It's never actually entered the human body. Until now, until it is an ingredient in the Impossible Burger. It's never been tested in humans, with any luck, kind of long term safety research. So the FDA is like, Nah, man, like I don't you can't use that ingredient. Because because we've never really tested that.
One of the major problems here is that when you modify a protein, you run a very high risk of it being very allergenic. Because remember, all of those food allergies, that everyone has their two proteins. So the FDA was saying like, No, you can't put it in there. We're really concerned about the safety. We're really concerned about possible adverse effects. And we also are really concerned about potential allergies. But because America is America, and our rules don't make sense, a lot of times the Impossible Burger people were like, well, we don't care, we're just going to put it in there and we're going to sell it and it's totally legal for them to do that. That is scary to me. So here is this untested, potentially unsafe ingredient in their burgers, and it's just out there on the market for public consumption. So finally, the FDA was like okay, and they issued something called a no questions letter. And this letter does not say yes, we the FDA think your product is safe, they're not willing to say that. what the letter says is that if something goes wrong, you can't come back to the FDA. It's on you Impossible Burger. So if this goes really wrong and people get sick or have allergies or have hormone disruption, or cancer or whatever goes wrong, we the FDA are not taking responsibility for that you chose to put it in Impossible Burger so you can deal if things go badly. So it's basically telling Impossible Burger Go ahead, do what you want, or hands off, says the FDA. This is Your government at work for your protection, I just want you to know this is not an individual case. This is not one like, whoa, the FDA really dropped the ball on that, no, the FDA drops the ball everywhere. They are not keeping you safe in any way from potential hazardous food, personal care, cleaning products, nothing, they are not keeping you safe. They are just doing a really terrible job. And this is one example of that.
So Impossible Burger was like, Okay, well, we don't really like this status, because we want to be able to say it safe so that we can sell it. So the Impossible Burger people pay for a test. And they tested this ingredient for 28 days on some rats. And they decided after 28 days, they're like, well, the rats seem fine. Like they didn't have any allergies after 28 days, or they didn't develop cancer in 28 days. So they're like, see, it's fine. And here's the worst part of this. That is literally the only study that exists that I could find and that I saw anywhere that says that that ingredient is actually safe that soy leghemoglobin. This test by Impossible Burger on rat for 28 days, that determined it was safe is the only test in existence that says that ingredient is safe for human consumption. That is not enough for me. Rat trials do not translate necessarily to human trials. So there really is no proof that this ingredient is safe whatsoever that should give you pause before you put food in your mouth. And I also want to caveat here, it's not just this ingredient, there are tons of food ingredients that the FDA has kind of hands off or like it's probably fine. And that are in your processed food all different places that you go that are potentially causing you major harm that are FDA has not tested or protected you from Okay, I just that is just it's the reality, you just need to know that going about your life.
Okay, here's another issue that I want to point out to you guys, we're gonna go back to the food allergies. Because if you have people, if you or people in your family have food allergies, this might be a really bad choice for you. Because putting a foreign protein like that into your body that your body has never seen before, could absolutely cause an allergic reaction and or anaphylactic shock. It has never been tested or proven safe. Remember all those major food allergies, they're all two proteins. And so if you are then ingesting this foreign protein that was made in a lab that your body has never seen before, you could be in real trouble. There's always a risk to eating Franken food, especially when you have things like food allergies, eat at your own risk, basically, is what I'm telling you.
The other questionable thing about the Impossible Burger for me is that the main protein is soy, highly processed soy. And in general, I, across the board encourage people to stay away from soy, especially highly processed soy for lots of reasons. It's an ingredient for me that I just it's not worth it, the benefits absolutely in no way outweigh the potential risks. Two of the biggest problems with soy is that it can be highly related to several types of cancers. And it is also highly contaminated with glyphosate pesticides. Remember, they're Roundup, because all soy grown in the United States is genetically modified and what that means any genetically modified crop is genetically modified so that when you spray and just douse it with this pesticide, everything around it dies, but it doesn't die. That is what the genetic modification is doing. Those that glyphosate is related to several cancers and it's endocrine disrupting, and it kills all your good gut bacteria. So highly processed soy is something that I just recommend people don't really do. And it's the main protein source source in these burgers. So now we've got this weird lab created Franken food ingredient, and then we've got this highly processed soy with potentially tons of pesticide exposure. And those two creating a firestorm of potential allergic reaction situation. And so all of that together is like it's a no go for me. I would not touch an impossible anything with a 10 foot pole it for me, again, any benefit does not outweigh the risk and I don't really even know what the benefits are. We'll get there in a sec.
Okay, so a beyond burger is kind of a slight improvement over an Impossible Burger. I'll give it that. The first thing it's got going for it is non-GMO. So you are then removing a lot of that risk from the glyphosate and pesticide exposure. It's also does not have that SLH ingredient. It does not have that weird lab grown protein in it and it also does not have soy so those three things right off the bat are like 100%, for me make a beyond burger a better choice, I also can pronounce most of the ingredients. So that's a win for me, I feel like that's a makes it a clear winner over an Impossible Burger. For me, the main source and a beyond burger is peas, mung beans, and rice. So I feel a lot more comfortable with those things as protein sources. But you do also have to remember that it is a processed food, and there are some questionable things in it. But everything in moderation, right.
The other thing that's both impossible and beyond having them is something called natural flavors. And I would say I would do air quotes with my hands, quote, unquote, natural flavors, the term natural flavors on an ingredient label has no regulation. So in the United States, you could put 20 things into a product, and put it all under the term natural flavors. And you don't actually have to list what all those 20 things are. Because what it is every product, right how they flavor it, it's like their secret recipe. Well, your their secret recipe could be natural herbs and spices. And the other guy's secret recipe is like all these weird chemical flavors. And they don't have to tell you by just saying that, Oh, these are all part of our proprietary blend of quote unquote, natural flavors. So again, this goes beyond your reading of the Impossible Burger or beyond burger. But just in general, just be aware that natural flavors could be a lot of different things, natural scents, also, same exact scenario, there could be 20,000 chemicals in that one natural scent label. Okay. So again, the beyond burger is still a highly processed food. And in general, we're trying to move away from highly processed and towards more food in its natural form. That's not always how we're going to eat and that's okay, it'll be fine. But just as a general rule in your life, that's kind of where we're always trying to hit less processed and more food in its whole form. Okay, so let's talk about the nutrient profile of these two burgers, because honestly, you might be surprised, they always are saying like how much better it is for you than just eating a beef burger. But it's really actually not.
It's really not much different than eating just a regular burger. Like stats wise, it's pretty much on par. These the fake burgers generally have a bit higher saturated fat content than a regular burger. But what's worse, is that in the fake plant based burger, those saturated fats are coming from highly processed vegetable oils with like canola oils that are worse for you than the saturated fats from just actual real meat. They're way more inflammatory for you than saturated fats that are just from meat. Compared to a 90% lean beef burger of the same size, the Impossible Burger has more calories, more fat, more carbs, less protein. So how is that better, and some weird ingredient that I don't even know what its gonna do to my body. And these plant based burgers generally have more calories than an actual just hamburger, they also have significantly higher sodium levels than just a regular beef burger. So so far, I really not seeing an upside to the plant based burgers.
The other thing that you have to think about when in just in terms of food, in general is bioavailability of nutrients. So in the healthy mind, Healthy Body program, what we're talking about a lot when we're in the Healthy Body section, is not just what you're eating, but what you're absorbing of what you're eating because I could eat something like say a plant based burger that says it has all these nutrients in it. But if my body doesn't absorb those nutrients, then it was all for naught doesn't matter. So when you're thinking about food, you need to be thinking about what is the bioavailability of those nutrients that I've eaten, any nutrient that's added to a fake burger is fake. It was made in a lab. So it's just not going to be as bioavailable as nutrients in a real beef hamburger. So you might hear on the advertisement like oh, they're a protein content is similar and that's true. They have about the same grams of protein a little more than an actual burger. But what matters is how much of that protein are you actually absorbing. Protein for me is more bio available for you than protein from plants and protein from real food. So let's say like if you just put rice and beans in a bowl, you will absorb more more protein from those plant sources than you would from a processed plant food like a A plant based burger makes sense. Real Food is going to be better for you across the board. I do not consider a processed plant based fake burger real food. I don't.
The other argument that I hear a lot is this argument about the environmental impact of large factory farmed meat. Okay. There is an there's a discussion to be had there. There is an impact, but I think it is not quite what media would have you believe. But there's a there's a conversation they're worth having for sure. The question is, though, is the impact of a plant based burger so much smaller than the impact of just a straight up beef burger? And I'm going to argue not really, especially for the Impossible Burger. So consider this consider the amount of land required to grow all the crops. For those burgers, you have to grow soy, pea potatoes, canola, right? You're putting the oil in all the different things that you're trying to grow. Guess what they're grown on. Huge factory farms. Yeah, it's not a beef farm. But it is a huge mono crop farm that takes up tons of land. The mono crop farming is really a problem for soil. And for quality of nutrients available in the vegetables grown. Mono crop farming is a major problem. Consider also the amount of chemicals and factory processing that's involved in creating that burger. How do you turn a pea into pre pea protein? How do you turn a soy bean into soy protein? That is a lot of chemical processing in a factory. So that amount of refinement, the amount of energy used to create those processes to make all those processed ingredients. At this point, I hope you're seeing like, whoa, okay, well, it's, it's maybe not that more environmentally helpful than just having some cows on some land. Also consider this. The GMO crops which remember, most of these are like the soy, like the canola are majorly impacting our ecosystem, the glyphosate and fertilizer used for those GMO crops. And really, all crops are totally depleting the soil of nutrients. It's getting into our water, it's poisoning us from all directions. And glyphosate, again, is a known endocrine disruptor, it kills the good bacteria in your gut, it's related to several cancers. Monsanto, who at one point was the only producer of glyphosate. Now they've lost their patent and lots of companies are using it, they have lost multiple lawsuits proving that glyphosate caused the cancer in the complainants of the lawsuits. I just want you to just I want you to kind of look at this bigger picture. Okay, because that's what you're being fed is like, oh, farms are so bad meat is so bad. But let's look at the whole picture of what they're not telling you about all these things that are happening
to make these plant based burgers.
This bottom line for me, is that I will absolutely never ever eat an Impossible Burger ever. It will not happen. No one in my family will eat it. I literally have told everyone like don't touch it with a 10 foot bowl. It's disgusting. Don't even go near it. If you want to choose a plant based burger, I would go with the beyond burger. That would be a better choice. I'm not trying to freak you out here, right? I'm not trying to convince you like, oh my gosh, I have to cut out all processed foods, the rest of my life where I'm gonna die of cancer. Like that is not what I'm telling you. So I want to be super clear, we are all going to eat processed food in our life, I eat processed food, we're all going to do it. I would be ridiculous. If I gave you an expectation that somehow you were never going to eat something from a box or something that was pre made. That's crazy. Okay, so please don't freak out. You are not going to get sick and die if you are already ate an Impossible Burger. Okay, it's not how food works. That's not how your body works. That's not how life works.
What I do want you to understand, though, is I want you to have a greater understanding of the things that you're choosing and why you're choosing them. So if you had decided, well, I'm going to choose this instead of that. I just want you to understand why. If I'm going to choose a beyond burger over an impossible or an impossible over a beef, I want you to have a clearer understanding of why and not because you've ingested some marketing messages. I just want you to have the real information because the more information you have, the better choices you can make for yourself. Okay, that's really all this is. I want to arm you with information and I hope I'm also spurring some questions in you like hmm, well if this is true for this food, what other foods have I've maybe been misled about what other things should I investigate a little further? My beer concern really is not so much for those of you who already eat meat because to me, it's an easy choice, I will choose the meat over the plant based burger every time. But if there's vegans out there, and maybe they don't understand the potential risk, and they're going and they're eating a lot of these, right, they're eating a lot of impossible burgers, thinking that it's good for them. And they're skipping other things that they could be eating because they're eating this. I would also say, just make your own veggie burger. There's so many awesome recipes out there for meatless burgers and veggie based burgers that you could just make make yourself. If you're looking for a meatless burger. Awesome, make it yourself, like, I've seen black bean burgers and all kinds of tons of recipes out there. So just look up veggie burger recipe and the 1000 things will pop up. And you could make those that would be a much better choice for you than one of these quote unquote, plant based burgers.
And if you are someone like me who eats meat, just go eat a real burger, nice, grass fed and local organic, if you can get it a really good beef burger that you made yourself that you didn't maybe get at Burger King, like that's gonna be the best choice. And again, when it comes to protein, meat is king. Meat will never be replaced by some weird factory produced chemically induced Franken food, quote unquote, plant based for, it's just not going to happen. We know better now, don't we ladies? So again, bottom line, I want you to just be informed so you can make good choices for yourself. If you eat a beyond burger or an Impossible Burger, it is not the end of the world, you will be okay. As long as it's not something that you're eating on a regular basis all the time. But I just want you to be able to make good choices for yourself. So if you want any of the info, any of the studies, any of the articles that I referred to when I was kind of researching all of this, I'm happy to share any of that with you. If you have more questions. Reach out to me in the Facebook group. It's just on Facebook, no nonsense if you go to my Facebook page, Tara Faulmann. You will find the link there. Hop in that group and ask us the questions. If you're in the Healthy Mind Healthy Body program and membership you can ask those questions over there in the membership as well. So I hope that was really helpful. I hope that you can now arm yourself with information and make good choices. Until we talk again, my friends be well.
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