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:

Beyond Meat Is Beyond Unhealthy: an honest, unbiased review of this plant-based protein shows it's actually full of carcinogens.

The Beast Burger:

Beyond Meat Is Beyond Unhealthy: an honest, unbiased review of this plant-based protein shows it's actually full of carcinogens.

Grilled Chicken Strips:

Beyond Meat Is Beyond Unhealthy: an honest, unbiased review of this plant-based protein shows it's actually full of carcinogens.

Beefy Crumble:

Beyond Meat Is Beyond Unhealthy: an honest, unbiased review of this plant-based protein shows it's actually full of carcinogens.

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 soy stimulated the growth of estrogen dependent tumors found in breast cancer. And this one found the same thing.

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.”

Canola Oil

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

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

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.”

And from the Department of Medicine at University of Illinois at Chicago,

“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.”

Titanium Dioxide

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.

25 Comments

  1. Matthew Pickering Reply

    Just so we are clear…the author is recommending that eating grass-fed beef is a healthier than the Beyond Meat alternative ?
    Scientific evidence has been accumulating for decades that cancer is more common among people who eat red meat and processed meat.
    This article contradicts both scientific evidence and logic. I agree that the ingredients contained within the Beyond Meat patties are harmful as well, however compared to consuming actual meats, the risk of contracting a number of diseases is dramatically reduced by maintaining a plant based diet.
    Your argument against sustainability is absurd on an encyclopedic level. A overwhelmingly large percentage of the corn and soy grown in this country is used as feed for livestock industry.
    I willing to bet Ancestral-Nutrition.com is funded by the processed meats industry.

    • dani Reply

      It’s abundantly clear that I’m recommending that eating grass-fed beed is healthier than Beyond Meat. While I agree that eating processed meat is unhealthy and problematic, there is no legitimate study that proves that eating grass-fed meat in addition to plant based foods (veggies in particular) is even slightly unhealthy. It literally does not exist.

      Re: corn and soy grown for livestock – I addressed that, you’re ignoring this I suppose? I clearly recommend avoiding this meat in favor of local, grass-fed meat. Let’s not ignore the fact that millions of plant based eaters are eating this same corn and soy that they complain about being fed to livestock. It’s hypocritical and ignorant.

      Also I’d be a lot richer is I were funded by the processed meat industry, but considering how regularly I bash them, it’s idiot to even suggest this.

      • There’s not enough space in the world to feed everyone with grass-fed beef. For the US alone, you’d need the whole US, parts of Canada and Mexico to feed the US with grass fed beef, so that doesn’t fit at all. That’s why factory farming is a necessity if you want to feed people meat –> 80% or sth from the worlds soy and corn. Emissions from cows especially are crazy in terms of methane and CO2 and water use. How is that sustainable again? 1 kilo of cow protein amounts to 1,000 kg of CO2 emitted (NY Times or the Economist); for chicken and pork these numbers are far far lower. That means that 13.1 kg of beef equals flying to Thailand from the Netherlands. The NY Times states that eating veggies from Argentina totals less emission than eating local meat. So please, please do research on the actual numbers before you state that something is sustainable. Oh, and by the way, red meat is a recognized carcinogen so there should be research on that it is unhealthy, and there’s countless studies that do not find any harmful side effects of soy. And maybe the beyond burger isn’t healthy, but a regular hamburger isn’t either, and it’s definitely not sustainable.

  2. Beyond Meat doesn’t use msg. Look at their FAQ’s before trying to advocate for eating a living being: a mom, a daughter, a being that has feelings & is slaughtered for your taste buds. Try watching What The Health.
    Xo

    • dani Reply

      What The Health is the most ridiculous, inane, inaccurate pile of garbage I’ve ever seen.

      https://robbwolf.com/2017/07/03/what-the-health-a-wolfs-eye-review/

      Also they LITERALLY list autolyzed yeast extract, which is MSG, on their ingredient labels. Are you just choosing to ignore that fact?

      Also – a mom, a daughter, a living being was slaughtered for your tastebuds too. Millions of animals are killed a year to create these fake meat products. Entire species have been displaced to grow coy, corn, wheat, legumes. Millions of field mice are murdered every week to plow the fields. There are entire dead zones, one of the size of Rhode Island in the gulf, because of the runoff of fertilizer to grow the soy and corn and wheat and beans you so arrogantly eat, while you look down your nose at people who acknowledge the fact that for us to eat – something must die. We just choose to eat in a way with the most realistic compassion. I’d rather eat an animal raised with respect and love from a local farmer, that was killed honorably and painlessly – than eat a fake meat burger that killed millions of animals in its production.

      Try reading The Vegetarian Myth.

  3. dawn prestom Reply

    Fyi, ‘grass-fed beef’ is only ‘finished’ by cows eating grass. They’re taken out to eat a few meals of grass before they’re slaughtered, but are fed corn 90% of their lives, and living in squalor immediately prior to that. do some homework on that. Real homework. Not stuff funded by the beef industries themselves. Those cows are unfortunately not roaming freely in pastures for years an years. This is one of those fairytale buzzwords / images we glom onto….’Grass fed beef’. Its all marketing to sell you crap that’s still awful for you, but just sounds better. Trust me. i was an Art director in advertising for 14 years in NYC. I’ve been privy to shit I wish I never saw or heard. Its all the same garbage.

    • dani Reply

      That’s not only wildly inaccurate, it’s idiotic. I’d use the term ignorant, but clearly you have every means to educate yourself on the topic and choose not to.

      Grass-fed meat from local farmers, as I discussed in the article, constitutes cows actually fed grass and out on pasture. Being an art director in NYC has literally nothing to do with this topic and shows the depth of your ignorance on it. This comment actually infuriates because it’s so unintelligent and disrespectful to farmers.

      I have met so many farmers that have family run businesses, they work their asses off from dawn till dusk taking care of their animals. These animals live on pasture, they’re outside everyday. These farmers occasionally give the animals feed that may include grains (like in winter), but the vast majority of their lives – they’re out on pasture.

      These people don’t have money for advertising budgets. They don’t advertise outside of their family run Facebook page, or linking up with other farmers in the community, or farmers markets. They couldn’t tell you what a “buzzword” was – and they don’t care. They’re not the beef industry, which you would know if you had even the slightest idea of what you’re talking about. They are small, family run farms. They’re doing good work. They’re doing hard work that you could never even begin to imagine at your cushy art job, with the audacity to think you have any idea about these people.

      You, a woman who has never met these hard working people. Never cared to know them, to find out where your food comes from. Never participated in the process of growing food. It’s arduous. These people work hard. This is their lives, it’s their livelihood, it’s how they take care of their children. And you dare make up this ridiculous narrative that they don’t feed their cattle grass? That they mistreat them? That they’re not actually out on pasture? Go to any farmers market and talk to the mothers and fathers selling their meat to put their kids through college. They’re going to laugh in your face.

      I don’t say this lightly, you should be ashamed of yourself.

      • No one is doubting the integrity of “free range” farmers. It is apparent you have some relation to them, your family assuming, as the cloud of personal bias is looming largely around your words… There are enough non government sponsored replicated studies out there to make it easy to ignore opinion pieces clouted in personal attachment heh..

        • dani Reply

          The only relation I have to farmers is that they FEED ME. Which I think is pretty important. My family are city people.

          Unlike most people, and people commenting on this article in particular, I have met the people that grow my food. I’ve seen the process, the animals, the farm, the work. I’ve even seen my previous farmer get shut down by the FDA for selling raw milk. They raided his house in the middle of the night and woke up his eight kids, one of which was just a few weeks old.

          It seems like I can’t win with you guys. You want studies so I provide them, then you bash them for being “government sponsored.” Which doesn’t even make sense. I also provided studies from Harvard and other various institutions and showed how canola oil is made – guess you’re all just going to ignore that?

  4. That was supposed to be a thumbs up.
    I agree with Dani and not with the author.

  5. Candace Carlisle McCarthy Reply

    So I’m your opinion we should just eat dead rotting flesh?

    • dani Reply

      No, we should eat the fresh flesh of animals grown in a healthy, respectful manner from local farmers. Eating anything rotten isn’t a good idea, obviously.

  6. Umm where does it say soy protein?

    Also you’re dreaming if you think there is enough loca grass fed cattle or land to do so to feed the whole world’s population..

    But mostly vegan meat is for not killing animals…

    • dani Reply

      Literally says “soy protein isolate” on the ingredient list for the grilled chicken strips. Glad to see you didn’t actually read the article.

      There’s not currently enough local, grass-fed cattle to feed the world but if we switched from a CAFO model to grass-fed model, this is not only possible, but AMAZING for the environment.

      Vegan meat kills thousands of animals. Millions, even. Entire herds of wild buffalo have been displaced for your soy, wheat and corn. Field mice are killed when those fields are plowed – millions upon millions of them. Just because you don’t see all the animals killed to get your fake meat, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You’re just arrogantly blind to it.

  7. Stop with the bullshit. You idiots are obviously trying to discredit the plant-based/vegan industry with the fluff piece. Please, stop. It’s pathetic.

    • dani Reply

      Sure, legitimate scientific research and years of common sense be damned!

  8. Why are they talking about soy! There is non in thee burger! Wow this has so been sponsored by the meat industry! It has pea protein! Not soy!!!!

    • dani Reply

      I am taking about soy because it’s very clearly in the chicken strips, which you’d know if you bothered to read the article.

      Saying this is sponsored by the meat industry is not just ridiculous, it’s straight up dumb. I clearly bash the meat industry and CAFO farms and recommend eating grass-fed meat from local pasture based farms.

  9. Mig Granger Reply

    The first rule of nutrition probably should be, never speak in absolutes.
    To quote the author:
    ” there is NO LEGITIMATE STUDY that proves that eating grass-fed meat in addition to plant based foods (veggies in particular) is EVEN SLIGHTLY UNHEALTHY. IT LITERALLY DOES NOT EXIST.”
    Wow. You are dead wrong.
    And while neither you, nor I have or ever could begin to crack the surface of the number of nutritional studies published in a given year, let alone, in all existence, we don’t have to.
    There ACTUALLY IS a non-profit organization that does exactly that: https://nutritionfacts.org.
    I sincerely, request that you, Dani, spend even ONE HOUR reviewing this website and the information presented on the ACTUAL STUDIES that DO EXIST and refute your sometimes outdated and selectively reviewed, claims.
    Before you dive into THE FACTS, though, I want to point out that your blog post began by excoriating, very specifically, the Beyond Burger. And since I love the Beyond Burger, specifically, and since your whole post was aimed directly at the Beyond Burger, I find it interesting that your first “beef” is with, soy.
    And while your argument against soy MAY be valid, IT ISN’T EVEN LISTED as an ingredient in the Beyond Burger.
    You included the ingredients for the “chicken strips”, to validate your #1 supporting evidence for why the Beyond Burger is beyond unhealthy. Meat advocates probably didn’t notice since meat wasn’t the first ingredient.
    You quickly moved on to canola oil. Everything you reference can be corroborated by scientific studies. Yet, the Beyond Burger contains, EXPELLER PRESSED canola oil. EPCO is not processed the same way as the highly refined canola oils found in mainstream grocery stores. Maybe you knew this, maybe not.
    Yeast extract. Your argument is a bit misleading and beyond the scope of my lunch hour to debunk.
    The very complex debate surrounding glutamates and whether or not yeast extract is Monosodium Glutamate in disguise NOTWITHSTANDING (shall we throw in the highly concentrated glutamates found in meat, mushrooms, cheese, tomatoes, etc.?), millions of people are still clinging like a lifeboat, to one particular study, that was published when Duran Duran was still topping the charts.
    See the first rule of nutrition mentioned above. Time marches on.
    The great MSG debate has undergone a DECADES long tug-o-war in terms of scientific research.
    Check the facts: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/update-on-msg.
    While I have eaten a strictly vegan diet for a little more than a year, I do not pretend to have perfect health. I have Celiac disease and suffer from gastrointestinal inflammation on a daily basis. I try to eat whole, unprocessed foods at every meal.
    Then again, I don’t write books or blogs denouncing grass-fed beef and how it ravages your body. Why?
    Because, while the longevity and nutrition science currently favors veganism, more and more research is pointing to the unhealthy balance of flora in the microbiotic biome of our digestive systems as the catalyst for pretty much everything deadly to humans.
    Check out nutritionfacts.org for a non-biased analysis of EVERY nutritional study published annually.

    • dani Reply

      To quote you,

      “” there is NO LEGITIMATE STUDY that proves that eating grass-fed meat in addition to plant based foods (veggies in particular) is EVEN SLIGHTLY UNHEALTHY. IT LITERALLY DOES NOT EXIST.”
      Wow. You are dead wrong.”

      Okay – if I’m dead wrong, provide me with that study. You didn’t because you can’t.

      Nutritionfacts.org is a joke. It’s also the opposite of unbiased, it’s run by a vegan doctor who cherry picks his studies and information to fit his agenda – while ignoring a large body of research indicating otherwise. It’s should be renamed veganpropaganda.org because that’s all it is.

      Re: MSG – I can’t. You have no idea what you’re talking about concerning glutamate, naturally occurring glutamate, monosodium glutamate, etc. Just so you know – glutamate in tomatoes is fine – monosodium glutamate created in a lab is bad. I can’t have a debate with someone who has no understanding of basic nutritional information.

      I mean this in the nicest way possible and I hope you take my advice, if you are suffering from GI inflammation on a daily basis, it’s absolutely because of your diet and you need to change it. Veganism is clearly not working for you AND THAT’S OKAY. You’re not a failure or a bad person if it doesn’t work for you. I am happy to chat with you about ways to improve and reduce your inflammation and heal your GI tract. Seriously. I’m here to help.

  10. Dani, your arrogance itself would make me turn my own nose up at your offer to help me decide how to feed my body. I’m sorry, but no one has all the answers- even you…shocker, right? Nutrition is way too complex to be black and white. If you’re going to post about something controversial, you probably should expect controversy and opposing views, and more importantly, learn how to respect others’ choices and take the criticism. I shall take my research elsewhere. Just as you put it:
    “I can’t” with the arrogant, pompous, and immature attitude.
    Also, the word “literally”. seriously, enough already.

    • dani Reply

      Ugh, you’re right. I get so fired up and use “I can’t” and “literally” way too often. Especially “literally.” I blame Chris Traeger.

      I do expect controversy, I just wish it came with common sense. I don’t think I know everything and I don’t think nutrition is black and white, I think quite the opposite in fact.

      I encourage you to take your research elsewhere! Everyone should research the hell out of nutrition, land management, soy, grass-fed farms, etc. Although I did provide a lot of good and legitimate research so you should probably at least take it into consideration.

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