KFC Is Going ‘Beyond Meat’ — but Is It Healthy?
By George Citroner
With the growing popularity of meat-free eating, U.S. restaurant chain KFC has partnered with Beyond Meat to test a new plant-based "fried chicken" offering.
Only available as part of an exclusive one-restaurant test that started August 27 in an Atlanta, Georgia, location, customer response will determine if the new item becomes a fixture on KFC menus nationwide.
But as a heavily processed food, is fried, plant-based "meat" actually healthy to eat?
Increasingly popular, but is it better?
Meat alternatives are becoming an increasingly popular option in supermarkets and restaurants across the U.S. as people grow more concerned about health and the environmental impact of meat consumption.
According to KFC, the taste will be indistinguishable from real chicken.
"KFC Beyond Fried Chicken is so delicious, our customers will find it difficult to tell that it's plant-based," said Kevin Hochman, KFC U.S. president and chief concept officer, in a statement. "I think we've all heard 'it tastes like chicken' – well our customers are going to be amazed and say, 'it tastes like Kentucky Fried Chicken!'"
But there is controversy regarding whether or not plant-based meat substitutes are healthier than meat sourced from animals.
Not considered a complete protein
"While there are many positive benefits to choosing vegan/vegetarian protein choices, like no cholesterol, lower total fat, animal rights issues, and environmental impacts, it's important to note that plant-sourced proteins don't provide all the essential amino acids. Plant sourced proteins are not considered complete proteins in the world of nutrition," Leslie Young, MA, RDN, and professor of nutrition at Purdue University Global School of Health Sciences in West Lafayette, Indiana, told Healthline.
Young pointed out for a balanced diet without meat, vegans or vegetarians need to find multiple types of protein sources to ensure they don't miss out on key nutrients.
"However, if the consumer seeks this out as their new, sole source of protein or if portions sizes aren't kept in check, then some nutritional risks may need to be assessed," Young said.
Beyond Meat chicken is a processed food
A recent study published in May in the British Medical Journal found a link between eating "ultra-processed" food and the risk of cardiovascular conditions. Researchers defined these foods as including baked goods, soft drinks, ready-made meals, and even dehydrated vegetable soups.
The findings suggested that for every 10 percent increase in the quantity of ultra-processed foods participants ate, their risk of cardiovascular disease rose by 12 percent, with similar increases in risk of heart and cerebrovascular disease.
Beyond Meat products contain a broad range of food additives, including preservatives and a coloring agent, placing them squarely in this category.
Wheat gluten can be an issue
Gluten is a plant protein found in wheat and some other grains; it's made up of two molecules called glutenin and gliadin. With water, these substances form the elastic bond that gives bread and other processed foods a stretchy and spongy consistency.
About one percent of the U.S. population lives with celiac disease — an intestinal condition worsened by exposure to wheat gluten.
Another one percent of Americans experience non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) — a condition characterized by symptoms triggered by the introduction of gluten-containing foods.
Wheat gluten can cause symptoms in people sensitive to it that include:
- Abdominal bloating
- Diarrhea, constipation or smelly bowel movements
- Abdominal pain
Gluten may also increase the risk of obesity.
A recent mouse study found gluten-eating mice ended up with 20 percent greater body weight and 30 percent higher fat deposits in than the animals fed a gluten-free diet.
KFC’s plant-based chicken is fried
The association between fried food consumption and heart disease has been confirmed by numerous studies. When asked if this impacted KFC's new Beyond Meat chicken offering, Julianne Penner, MS, RD, from the Loma Linda University International Heart Institute in Loma Linda, California was emphatic.
"I wouldn't consider it healthy, but it may be somewhat less harmful. I'm not sure what kind of oil KFC uses for frying or if it's the same oil that will be used for the Beyond Chicken, but I would assume that it's unhealthy oil," Penner said.
Young also added that breaded chicken means there's a significant carbohydrate component to the dish.
"Also, people with certain forms of diabetes need to be aware of the carbohydrate content of these meat alternative products. Most people associate fried meats as having little to no carbohydrates," Young added.
In addition to the carbohydrate, deep fried means lots of oil. KFC switched to canola oil for frying some years back in an effort to remove trans fats from their food. However, the latest evidence suggests that canola may not be the best for our health.
The bottom line
KFC has partnered with Beyond Meat to test a new plant-based, fried chicken in one location in Atlanta, Georgia.
Of the listed ingredients in Beyond Meat chicken, there may be concerns for the health conscious. Wheat gluten in the faux chicken product and it still breaded an deep-fried, which is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
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Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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