You may have heard about this new plant based burger that tastes and even bleeds like a real burger…and if that isn’t enough to weird you out, I don’t know what is. Weird as it seems to me, I’m much more concerned with the actual ingredients, especially when the product touts itself as not just healthy, but sustainable; they even refer to their products as the future of protein.
Is it actually healthy? Is it actually sustainable?
After taking a look at the ingredients, the answer is a resounding hell no. Not even close. Let’s examine.
The original Beyond Meat burger:
The Beast Burger:
There are numerous ingredients in these products that are both unhealthy and unsustainable. So much so that I’m shocked this company has the audacity to even use the words “health” and “sustainability” when referring to their products.
Soy Protein Isolate
Processed soy is particularly problematic. Whereas fermented, organic soy in small amounts (like natto) does not pose serious health risks, eating soy protein isolate will definitely take its toll on the body. Some effects of soy include decreased libido, mood swings, depression, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, protein malabsorption, endometriosis, depressed thyroid function, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and several others.
This study from Harvard found that men consuming the equivalent of one cup of soy milk per day had 50% lower sperm count than men who did not consume soy (even accounting for other factors like age, caffeine and alcohol intake, etc.).
From the study,
“There was an inverse association between soy food intake and sperm concentration that remained significant after accounting for age, abstinence time, body mass index, caffeine and alcohol intake and smoking. In the multivariate-adjusted analyses, men in the highest category of soy food intake had 41 million sperm/ml less than men who did not consume soy foods.”
Just wait. There’s more.
This study found that,
“…this pilot study indicates that prolonged consumption of soy protein isolate has a stimulatory effect on the premenopausal female breast, characterized by increased secretion of breast fluid, the appearance of hyperplastic epithelial cells, and elevated levels of plasma estradiol. These findings are suggestive of an estrogenic stimulus from the isoflavones genistein and daidzein contained in soy protein isolate.“
Soy is high in phytic acid, also known as phytates. These phytates prevent the absorption of minerals like magnesium, iron, calcium and phosphorous (among others). This can be particularly problematic, especially for children.
Soy is also high in goitrogens which can interfere with the thyroid hormone, leading to hypothyroidism and even cancer.
Additionally, soy is high in phytoestrogen (source). This can interfere and block normal estrogen, leading not just to hormonal imbalance but even breast cancer. Personal note: this is why my periods were so heavy, painful and irregular when I was a vegetarian as a teen.
The processing that soy protein isolate undergoes is also a huge cause for concern. Dr. Mercola describes the process,
“Soy protein isolate is not something you can make in your own kitchen. Production takes place in industrial factories where a slurry of soy beans is first mixed with an alkaline solution to remove fiber, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash and, finally, neutralized in an alkaline solution.
Acid washing in aluminum tanks leaches high levels of aluminum into the final product. The resultant curds are spray- dried at high temperatures to produce a high-protein powder.”
Here’s a video on how canola oil is made.
To summarize the video:
The rapeseeds are firstly highly pressurized, forcing out the oil. To extract the remainder of the oil, the canola cakes undergo a 70 minute wash with a “chemical solvent.” This chemical solvent, my friends, is hexane. A neurotoxin. Then the oil enters the refining phase, in which the oil is washed with sodium hydroxide, aka lye. After this, the oil is clearer but still contains waxes. Then the oil is cooled to 41 degrees to filter out the wax – which is used for vegetable shortening. After this the oil is bleached to remove the color, then “a steam injection heating process to remove the odor.” It’s heated to extremely high temperatures because the oil is literally rank and smells terrible.
One tablespoon of canola oil contains 2,610 mg of omega-6 fatty acids and 1,279 mg omega-3 fatty acids. That’s a lot of omega-6, which causes inflammation. While it’s true that our bodies need omega-6, it’s ubiquitous. It’s in everything, and Americans get way too much of it, which not only causes inflammation, but leads to heart disease and cancer. Proponents of canola oil love to tout the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, but it’s still a lot of omega-6 and the omega-3s found in canola oil aren’t even beneficial (as opposed to omega-3s found in foods like fish).
Let’s further analyze this. The omega-3s found in canola oil are ALA, alpha lipoic acid. ALA does not convert well to EPA or DHA, which are the beneficial omega-3s that protect brain, heart and cardiovascular healthy, while reducing inflammation. So promoting the omega-3 content in canola oil is redundant – the omega-3s in canola oil do not contain the beneficial EPA and DHA.
Canola oil is incredibly inflammatory. Without a doubt, it is an industrialized, unhealthy vegetable oil that should be avoided.
Caramel color, not to be confused with actual caramel (made of cream and sugar), is made using ammonia and sulfites under high pressure.
Caramel color is most notably added to soft drinks, like Coke or Pepsi. Johns Hopkins did a study on the caramel color found in these drinks and determined that it is indeed a carcinogen.
“Soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for aesthetic purposes,” says Keeve Nachman, PhD, senior author of the study and director of the Food Production and Public Health Program at the CLF and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health “This unnecessary exposure poses a threat to public health and raises questions about the continued use of caramel coloring in soda.” Source
Yeast Extract aka Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG masquerades under a multitude of names and yeast extract is one of them. MSG is an excitotoxin, it overstimulates the nervous system.
From The University of Toyama in Japan,
“We previously reported that injection of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in ICR mice leads to the development of significant inflammation, central obesity, and type 2 diabetes. To directly address the long-term consequences of MSG on inflammation, we have performed serial analysis of MSG-injected mice and focused in particular on liver pathology. By 6 and 12 months of age, all MSG-treated mice developed NAFLD and NASH-like histology, respectively. In particular, the murine steatohepatitis at 12 months was virtually undistinguishable from human NASH. Further, dysplastic nodular lesions were detected in some cases within the fibrotic liver parenchyma. We submit that MSG treatment of mice induces obesity and diabetes with steatosis and steatohepatitis resembling human NAFLD and NASH with pre-neoplastic lesions. These results take on considerable significance in light of the widespread usage of dietary MSG and we suggest that MSG should have its safety profile re-examined and be potentially withdrawn from the food chain.” Source
This study linked MSG with headaches and increased blood pressure.
Carrageenan is a harmful additive that all but guarantees it’s going to f*ck you up. From The College of Medicine at University of Iowa,
“Although the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1982 identified sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of degraded carrageenan in animals to regard it as posing a carcinogenic risk to humans, carrageenan is still used widely as a thickener, stabilizer, and texturizer in a variety of processed foods prevalent in the Western diet…Review of these data demonstrated that exposure to undegraded as well as to degraded carrageenan was associated with the occurrence of intestinal ulcerations and neoplasms…Because of the acknowledged carcinogenic properties of degraded carrageenan in animal models and the cancer-promoting effects of undegraded carrageenan in experimental models, the widespread use of carrageenan in the Western diet should be reconsidered.”
“This is the first report of the impact of carrageenan on glucose tolerance and indicates that carrageenan impairs glucose tolerance, increases insulin resistance and inhibits insulin signalling in vivo in mouse liver and human HepG2 cells. These effects may result from carrageenan-induced inflammation. The results demonstrate extra-colonic manifestations of ingested carrageenan and suggest that carrageenan in the human diet may contribute to the development of diabetes.”
Yet another carcinogen. French researchers performed a study in which they gave rats an oral dose of titanium dioxide for 100 days.
You can probably guess what happened.
“Their results determined that chronic oral exposure led to a non-malignant stage of carcinogenesis, the process of normal cells becoming cancer cells, in 40 per cent of exposed animals.” Source
Other studies have linked inhalation of titanium dioxide to cancer. Why would someone inhale an ingredient in these plant-based burgers? Because it’s also found in paint.
A word on sustainability.
How did we get to this point? To the point where people think that consuming a food-like product created in a lab, using a multitude of toxic ingredients, whose origin is completely unknown – is sustainable? Just because something is plant based does not make it sustainable.
You know what’s sustainable?
Supporting your local farmers. GRASS-FED MEAT IS SUSTAINABLE. There is a symbiotic relationship between land and animals. They need each other to thrive. Animals feed the land. They nourish it. When this happens, farmers can grow plentiful amounts of nutrient-rich produce. This process literally builds topsoil, which is necessary for a healthy environment.
Buying local and supporting your local farmers ensures that your food isn’t traveling thousands of miles to reach you. Consider the gas, the emissions, the resources used for this Los Angeles based fake meat product to reach someone in Michigan, Louisiana or Washington, DC.
And let’s not forget that two ingredients in these products, soy and canola, are literally destroying the planet. Soy and canola are two of America’s largest scale monocrops – grown on thousands and thousands of acres of land doused with pesticides. There are no animals. There is no growing these crops the way food should be grown.
Fromt the World Wildlife Foundation, this is the effect of farming soy:
“In South America, almost 4 million hectares of forests are destroyed every year, 2.6 million of them in Brazil alone. Although this is lower than in the 1990s, it is still far too high and can largely be blamed on heavily soy-dependent livestock farming.”
And while most of that is going to CAFO farms, it’s also going to products like Beyond Meat. Soy is not sustainable – whether it’s going to industrialized farming operations or plant-based products. In the US, millions of acres of soy are doused with pesticides.
People have become so disconnected from food, from where it comes from, from how it’s grown, from who grows it – that they thing something that really shouldn’t even be considered food – is sustainable. Is healthy.
Here is true sustainability:
Buy your food locally from farmers. Buy food that is in season. Grow a garden in your backyard. Raise some chickens. Buy meat and seafood grown responsibly. Go to the farmers market. Join a buying club. Eat food that your great-great grandmother would recognize as food. Do not buy man-made food-like products. Cook from scratch. Know where your food comes from. And don’t get swept up in trendy food products that promote sustainability while harming the environment and your health.
Thanks to Beyond Meat for letting me use their photos.