Will Picking the Impossible Whopper Over Beef Help You Stay Healthy?
- More restaurant chains are turning to faux-meat options.
- But experts say just because it's not meat, doesn't mean it's significantly healthier.
- In general, diets lower in meat can be healthier. But faux-meat products can have high sodium levels.
Burger King has the Impossible Whopper. Carl's Jr. has their Beyond Famous Star. KFC even introduced a plant-based chicken-like product — and sold out in 5 hours.
It seems, either for the sake of following a trend or for the purpose of offering alternatives to more diverse consumers, many fast-food brands are hopping on the train of plant-based meats. Grocery stores are even seeing an influx of meat-like, plant-based options on their shelves.
The bet on faux meat is paying off for companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, two of the larger purveyors of these plant-based products. Some economic forecasters predict these companies will be bringing in well over $100 billion in just about a decade. Even Tyson Foods thinks they can turn their non-meat foods into big business.
But for all the hype and glam of these meat alternatives, there's a very real reason companies are trying to encourage consumers to replace their beefy burgers with green ones: Research suggests they're healthier, in the long run, for both humans and the planet.
Can these plant-based foods deliver the promise of healthier, longer lives, a smaller footprint, and big, delicious flavor? We asked experts to weigh in for us.
Meat vs. plant: Which is better for longer lives?
Many large-scale, comprehensive studies have looked at the question of who lives longer: people who eat predominately plants, or people who eat an omnivore diet with meat.
And the results have been pretty one-sided.
For example, one study of more than 73,000 individuals found that vegetarian diets were linked to lower rates of premature death. Plus, death because of certain medical conditions — like cardiovascular disease and kidney disease — were lower in vegetarians compared to nonvegetarians.
The study's authors also noted that, "Associations in men were larger and more often significant than were those in women," which suggests men who eat a vegetarian or plant-based diet may see even more benefit than women who shun meat and animal products.
"Processed meats are clear class-one carcinogens, along the same level as cigarettes, as determined by the World Health Organization," said Dr. Dana Simpler, primary care practitioner at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
Plus, research confirms that people who eat a plant-based diet have a lower risk for hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Plant-based eating may also help with weight loss, and people with some chronic diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, may see improvements in symptoms by following a plant-based diet.
"Unlike a meat-based diet, which has been shown in several studies to be associated with different diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a plant-based diet has a number of benefits, including lower body weight, decreased risk of cancer, and a reduction in risk of death from ischemic heart disease — a restriction in blood supply to tissues, causing shortage of oxygen," Mahmoud Ghannoum, PhD, author of "Total Gut Balance," told Healthline.
"Another study published in 2018 involving more than 15,000 adults over 25 years found that animal foods high in protein and fat, such as lamb, beef, pork, and chicken were associated with a higher risk for premature death, while plant foods including vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads were associated with a lower risk for premature death," said Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, co-founder of Mastering Diabetes and co-author of "Mastering Diabetes."
Despite these findings, a report out earlier this year points to a systemic problem within the American dietary mindset: Many know a move from meat to plants would be healthier for nearly everyone, but few are heeding the message.
"We must ask ourselves why this is the case, given the numerous advantages and health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet," the researchers wrote.
That, it seems, is the challenge for dietitians and doctors alike.
So, should you swap?
When it comes down to the matter of nutrition, the Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, and other plant-based meat-like alternatives just aren't that much different than their meaty twins — at least in terms of numbers.
"Since a meat-based diet poses a number of health risks, the perception is that consuming a meat-like alternative is a healthy swap. In this regard, eating plant-based meat is quite safe and makes sense," Ghannoum said. "However, these meat alternatives are processed food, and like other processed foods are not as healthy as eating fresh vegetables."
Salt and fat are a particular concern because many manufacturers add these ingredients for the sake of flavor. The addition of oils, for flavor and moisture, makes many of these not ideal for someone with diabetes or heart disease, Simpler says.
"The Beyond Burger has just as much saturated fat as meat," said Hannah Koschak, RD, CD. "However, the Beyond Burger has 3 grams of fiber, which is beneficial."
But in the benefit column for the fake meats is the absence of a particular type of fat, Koschak says. "Meat has naturally occurring trans fats, which should be avoided as much as possible. However, imitation meat does not have trans fats."
Simpler added, "Also, soy protein isolates are so highly processed that they mimic the effects of animal protein in the body. So, it is important to pay attention to ingredients and avoid products with a lot of oil or soy protein isolates.
"What's more, some of these plant-based patties have more sodium than ground beef, which is naturally lower in sodium. An ounce of ground beef has about 20 milligrams of sodium, or about 70 milligrams for a 3-ounce cooked patty. A Beyond Burger has nearly 400 milligrams. High sodium intake is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases that are a leading cause of death in America.
So when it comes to the reason many people make the swap from meat — for their health — the switch from ground beef patties to plant-based look-a-likes does have more benefits than drawbacks, Koschak says. But it's not the real switch to plant-based eating that many health advocates have been pitching for decades.
"No, it is not more nutritious by any means. However, health-wise, they are a better option than meat," she said.
The bottom line
The experts Healthline spoke with agreed that any move toward a plant-based diet is a move in the right direction.
"These meat-like alternatives represent a short-term step towards eating less animal foods, but may not be a good long-term strategy to reduce the risk for future health complications," Khambatta said.
But ultimately, the goal for anyone looking to extend their lifespan and reduce their risk of diet-related health complications is to move entirely to a diet focused on unprocessed plants.
However, the occasional faux-meat burger gets a thumbs up from these experts, as the look-a-like meats have some flaws but are, as a whole, still healthier than the real thing.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
- The Beef With the GMO Impossible Burger - EcoWatch ›
- Burger King's 'Impossible' Whopper Has No Beef — Does This Make ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- 29 Wildfires Blaze Across the West, Fueled by Drought and Wind ... ›
- Large Wildfires Scorch Forests in Drought-Stricken Southwest ... ›
Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. mixetto / E+ / Getty Images
Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. New research has found that 5.4 million Americans were dropped from their insurance between February and May of this year. In that three-month stretch more Americans lost their coverage than have lost coverage in any entire year, according to The New York Times.
- Trump Plans to End Federal Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites ... ›
- 'Unfathomable Cruelty': Trump Admin Asks Supreme Court to ... ›
On hot days in New York City, residents swelter when they're outside and in their homes. The heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be fatal.
- Extreme Heat-Stressed Locations Could Increase by 80% - EcoWatch ›
- African Americans Are Disproportionately Exposed to Extreme Heat ... ›
- Extreme Heat Is Killing Americans While Government Neglect ... ›
Fracking companies are going bankrupt at a rapid pace, often with taxpayer-funded bonuses for executives, leaving harm for communities, taxpayers, and workers, the New York Time reports.
- Plunging Oil Prices Trigger Economic Downturn in Fracking Boom ... ›
- Fracking Boom Bursts in Face of Low Oil Prices - EcoWatch ›
- As Fracking Companies Face Bankruptcy, U.S. Regulators Enable ... ›
A report scheduled for release later Tuesday by Congress' non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Trump administration undervalues the costs of the climate crisis in order to push deregulation and rollbacks of environmental protections, according to The New York Times.
- Under Trump, EPA Workers Seek Bill of Rights to Allow Them to ... ›
- Trump Adds 'Tasteless Insult to Injury' by Pushing Fossil Fuel ... ›
By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
- Trump Admin Rejects CDC Reopening Guidelines - EcoWatch ›
- How Do You Stay Safe Now That States Are Reopening? - EcoWatch ›
- Florida Breaks U.S. Daily Record With Over 15,000 New ... ›
By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
- DNC Ignores Progressive Climate Activists - EcoWatch ›
- Who's a Climate Champion and Who's a Climate Disaster? - EcoWatch ›