Is The Beyond Meat Burger Beyond Unhealthy?
Just over a week ago, one of my clients forwarded me A & W’s latest commercial promoting the “Beyond Meat Burger” that was recently added to their menu. With all the recent hype surrounding vegetarianism and veganism, it’s to be expected that one of the fast food giants would roll out an enticing option for consumers. Curiosity is often the driving force behind many of the actions I take and decisions I make so it was no surprise when I felt compelled to take a detour on my way home from the gym one evening to purchase my own Beyond Meat Burger. Let’s be honest. A true food item review is NEVER complete without an honest taste test AND with all the hype claiming that no one can tell the difference between this “wanna-be beef” and a regular A & W patty, they had succeeded in getting my attention.
Unfortunately, it appears that the marketing angle being employed is one that portrays a healthier alternative to their current beef options. Although this of course hasn’t been definitively stated, it’s a great marketing tactic with its foundation built upon the current health-conscious movements that are saturating the social media arenas and our society. To be clear, the aim of this blog is NOT to pit a carnivorous / omnivorous diet against that of a vegetarian / vegan lifestyle, but rather to look at what the Beyond Meat Burger brings to the table in terms of quality food and whether it’s all that it’s hyped up to be.
Regardless of dietary preference, all individuals should prioritize the consumption of REAL food first and foremost. The Beyond Meat Burger is what I would classify as a FRANKENFOOD.
I have a feeling that the Beyond Meat Burger might prove to be a little beyond what you originally bargained for relative to its impact on your future health profile. I’ve been known in the past, to advise people to count chemicals and ingredients BEFORE they even consider worrying about calories, so I have included below, the list of ingredients that you will find in the Beyond Meat Burger. To be clear, this is JUST the patty.
Pea Protein Isolate – I’m all for steps in the right direction and this could potentially be one of them. As many of you know, I am far from the biggest fan of protein powders of any type. I firmly believe people in first world countries can and should get their protein while consuming real food. Nevertheless, I’m also a huge fan of BETTER. I understand that many food items / people will always utilize protein powders and that perfection doesn’t happen overnight. Having coached many individuals through awe-inspiring transformations, I’ve become a proponent of progress as primary, no matter what the pace. Progress is progress no matter how slow. From what I can gather, pea protein as a vegetarian / vegan source of protein is a progression over soy. Although both can potentially be allergen triggers, soy has a much more consistent rap sheet of allergic reactions coupled with its increased likelihood to be chemically processed.
Canola Oil – I’ll save you the wordy description. Here’s a video that shows you the process of making canola oil from a 70-minute wash in a chemical solvent to a final bleaching for appearance and all of the lovely fun that happens in between.
Water – I think this one is self explanatory.
Yeast Extract – Although this one sounds innocent enough, it’s simply the trade name for MSG. MSG has gotten quite a bad reputation in past decades yet it still tends to hold its own relative to maintaining it’s staying power as an ingredient in food products. So, what’s so bad about MSG? Well, this study in which mice were injected with MSG found that it contributed to significant development of inflammation, central obesity and type 2 diabetes. Many of the outcomes in mice mirrored the patterns we see in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is worrisome when the widespread use of dietary MSG is considered. Furthermore, this double-blind, placebo-controlled study found links between increased MSG intake and headaches as well as increased blood pressure.
Maltodextrin – A common thickener, filler or preservative that is often used in processed foods. Although it is a better option than many similar products (e.g., corn syrup solids) as it has a much lower sugar content, it’s probably important to realize that it is just a further addition to this chemical concoction being labelled as a burger. In this blog, Dr. Axe talks more about the dangers of maltodextrin in more detail. He overviews -
· relative insulin spikes
· suppressed growth of probiotics
· the reality that it’s produced from GMO corn
· a known allergen trigger
· provides ZERO nutritional benefit
Natural Flavours – This is a fun one. Seeing as the word “NATURAL” is present, many would be quick to pass over this in an ingredient review, BUT I would argue that this is anything but natural flavours. Below, I’ve quoted the exact definition as posted by the FDA:
The term ‘natural flavour’ or ‘natural flavouring’ means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavouring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavouring rather than nutritional.
Sunflower Oil – Although various vegetable and seed oils have been placed on a pedestal for years due to their lower saturated fat content (which we now know is not something to brag about), it’s important to recognize a few extremely detrimental realities of this ingredient. The first to note is that sunflower oil is quite high in Omega 6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. The modern, American diet is already incredibly unbalanced relative to its ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Experts advise a ratio of anywhere from 1:1 to 4:1. In the current American diet exists a range of 12:1 to 25:1 as the norm. This unbalanced ratio contributes dramatically to increased levels of inflammations in the body. Following this point is the regressive risk in repeatedly heating these oils and the impact this has on an individual’s future health profile. From increased risk of heart attack to negative affects on cholesterol profiles – it’s not looking too promising. Just consider for a moment, how often these oils are reheated in the fast food environment where it’s extremely common to simply top up the oils instead of completely emptying and refilling with fresh oils to cut costs. Chris Kresser goes into more detail relative to future risk of cardiovascular disease, impact on blood pressure and relative effect on cholesterol profile relating to this ingredient in his blog.
So - here’s where I’m going with this review. I am 7 ingredients into the list and the outlook is grim. Even if everything from this point on in the ingredients list are the healthiest inclusions you could possibly consume (they are definitely not), I still wouldn’t recommend it to ANYONE simply because of how many of the present ingredients are detrimental to your future health profile.
Here are the other 14 ingredients.
· Refined Coconut Oil
· Succinic Acid
· Gum Arabic
· Acetic Acid
· Non GMO Modified Food Starch
· Cellulose From Bamboo
· Potato Starch
· Beet Juice Extract (for colour)
· Ascorbic Acid (to maintain colour)
· Annatto Extract (for colour)
· Citrus Fruit Extract (to maintain quality)
· Vegetable Glycerin
(To clarify once again - this is JUST the patty. This does NOT include the bun, condiments, or whatever else is consumed as a part of this meal.)
To conclude, the taste was damn impressive. They weren’t joking when they claimed that it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between this Beyond Meat Burger and a traditional beef patty. My gut tells me that it has a lot to do with all the ingredients that are put in place to mask anything that would get my ‘spidey senses’ tingling.
For anyone who is wondering about my final judgement…
This, my friends, is an ‘All-American Chemical Shitstorm’. One of the popular concerns in recent years is sustainability in terms of food quantity and nutritional quality for our increasing populations. I would just like to offer my two cents’ worth on this point. Sustainability, relative to our food supply, should be less about trying to build products that look, taste and smell like food in a factory / lab environment and more about supporting our local farmers and prioritizing the consumption of REAL food while simultaneously decreasing our general wastefulness. Buy local as often as possible and ‘shake the hand that feeds you’. This simple approach may seem too easy but I am positive that if adopted by the majority, it would in fact be the quickest path to true sustainability.