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Are plant based meats good for our health ?

In past few years plant-based meats have become very popular with consumers. These vegan options are now, also appealing to meat eaters, creating disruption in the food market. Burger King featuring “Impossible meat” in their signature Whopper or Subway offering Beyond Meat are great examples of vegan meat reaching the wider population

This is not really a new phenomenon; meat alternatives have been available for centuries.

During the 10th century Chinese tofu was described as “small mutton”. The western world was also interested in meat free alternatives as they needed some good options for Lent (the six weeks period before Easter). Historically chopped almonds and grapes were used as a substitute for mincemeat. Diced bread was made into imitation crackling. There was even a book published in 1909 by Sarah Tyson Rorer - Mrs. Rorer's Vegetable Cookery and Meat Substitutes. The book includes a mock veal roast recipe made from lentils, breadcrumbs, and peanuts.

Up until 2009, meat alternatives were created having in mind mostly vegetarian and vegans – TVP (texture vegetable protein), Quorn (mycroprotein ) or Calysta (single cell protein-based meat analogue, which does not use fungi however but rather bacteria).

In 2009 Beyond Meat changed the game by creating products which were addressed towards meat eaters to change the way they ate.

Following the latest trends the company was founded on an ethical basis with the intention to produce healthier, whilst positively impacting climate change, conserving natural resources and respecting animal welfare. In 2011 Impossible was similarly founded aiming to provide a plant-based alternative without negative environmental impact.

Both Beyond and Impossible revolutionised the meat-free food scene, as meat eaters started to include these vegan options in their diet. Very often Beyond and Impossible are portrayed as healthier options, although to date there are not any specific studies on these products.

There are many issues which need to be addressed e.g. how do they influence our hormones or microbiome composition. Any health claims are also questionable and need to be proved.

They compete in a protein content with a lean beef burger, as they’ve been created to have a similar amount.

However both Impossible and Beyond have significantly more sodium (that can cause increased blood pressure) and saturated fats (with an associated risk of cardiovascular diseases).

Impossible and Beyond are not your friends if you are trying to shed a pound or two.

In my opinion both Beyond and Impossible go against the principles of a whole food plant based diet. Both products can be easily classified as plant based, but there are definitely not “whole foods”. They are made from the protein of soy (Impossible Burger) and peas (Beyond Burger). These isolates are highly processed and don’t contain the same nutrient and phytochemicals as soy or pea. In the case of the Impossible Burger, one serving contains less than 8% of the isoflavones found in one serving of whole soy foods.

There is also social aspect of both products, for example their burger patties are served in fast food chains, with a usual fast food perks – fries, giant serving of sodas etc.

To conclude, I think these are great products for a new vegan and people transitioning to a plant based diet, but in the long term maybe, it would be better to include tofu, tempeh or some home made veggie or bean burgers in you diet.

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