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The Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat aren't healthier (nbcnews.com)
86 points by bookofjoe 33 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 144 comments



God, what a strawman. No one eats fake meat to be healthier. It's about getting away from the appalling cruelty and environmental destruction of factory farming.

However, if you consider that fake meat doesn't create new superbugs from antibiotics overuse, and that the environment is important to your health, you could make a real case that it _is_ healthier.


> No one eats fake meat to be healthier.

Beyond Meat is marketed as being healthier. Go to Beyond Meat's website https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/ and it begins "Imagine your favorite meaty dishes like burgers and tacos delivering the juicy, delicious taste you know and love, while being better for you..."


It shouldn’t be. Either way, it’s not the main reason that people (like myself) are clamoring for plant-based meat alternatives that recreate the meat-eating experience. pkulak is right. It’s to prevent animal cruelty and help the environment.

The constant daily reminder from the media that Impossible Burgers aren’t any healthier than real burgers are an irrelevant distraction from the point. Animals don’t have to be slaughtered to enjoy a hamburger if it’s an Impossible burger. The only way to dispute that is if you claim that Impossible Burgers aren’t as good as a real one, and dammit if Impossible hasn’t done an incredible job at making a tasty burger out of freakin plants.


> Animals don’t have to be slaughtered to enjoy a hamburger if it’s an Impossible burger.

I realize this is a bit extreme of a characterization, but this argument doesn't sit right with me at all.

It sounds like 'I'm only willing to change my habits to reduce animal cruelty and help the environment if an alternative that tastes exactly like meat exists. Otherwise, what can possibly be done?!'

If you are really concerned about those things, whether the Impossible Burger exists or not should not make a difference. There are plenty of delicious vegetable burgers that already exist. They just taste like the ingredients they are made of (beans, mushrooms, etc.) and not a faux replica of meat.


Can you cite research to contrast the fairly well-known unsustainable agriculture practices that industrial complexes have lead to for plant based? I've yet to see an adequately done comparison between properly managed agriculture and properly managed meat production, e.g. non-monocrops vs. non-factory farming.


Hoping whoever downvoted me leaves a qualitative comment.


However, if you think of these products as a "gateway drug" to more plant-based eating, I think there's still an argument to be made that there's potentially a health benefit eventually. If all you do is eat fast food, you have no hope of dietary health. But if you start thinking, "plant-based isn't so bad' perhaps you'll consider them in other contexts as well. Most people could benefit from eating more plants, at least ones that haven't been processed into oblivion (like Beyond or other fast and convenience foods). Of course, it's possible that people will delude themselves that eating White Castle can be healthy if it's vegetarian, but that is a delusion that implies more willful ignorance than fake meat can be responsible for.


>However, if you think of these products as a "gateway drug" to more plant-based eating

I like to think of them as a gateway drug to meat for vegetarians. Once they get hooked on the taste, they'll soon start craving for the rich texture of the real meat. And there's still no plant-based bacon, which is the "killer app" of meat.


The full marketing copy could use some change but not a lot - the next thing they follow it up with is "while being better for you and the planet."

There are certainly benefits to eating a plant-based burger over a beef based one.


Whats your point?

“Better for you and the planet” IS a health proposition.

If only the planet part is true, then half of their benefit proposition goes away. Half the value proposition of any product is a big deal for that product.


“By shifting from animal, to plant-based meat, we are creating one savory solution that solves four growing issues attributed to livestock production: _human health_, climate change, constraints on natural resources and animal welfare.”

https://www.beyondmeat.com/about/


And as might be expected on a forum full of intelligent nitpickers, people can parse and dissect the structure of this sentence to fit any narrative they'd like.

For example, it says it's solving issues attributed to production of livestock...it doesn't outright claim the "meat" itself is healthier for you in terms of nutritional content.

Drive by any factory farm that stretches for hundreds of acres and the stench alone would convince you that reducing things like that would have a positive impact on human health, both directly and indirectly [runoff of feces and chemicals into the environment, use of antibiotics and hormones, climate change, etc]


It also says it that page:

  WHY BUILD MEAT DIRECTLY FROM PLANTS?

  PLANT-BASED MEATS:
  IMPROVING HUMAN HEALTH

  ANIMAL-BASED MEATS:
  16% INCREASED CANCER RISK
  21% INCREASED HEART DISEASE RISK

  1. “Risks associated with processed meats.” Archives of Internal Medicine.


> No one eats fake meat to be healthier.

I don't know that this is true. This is an NBC News article, written for an extremely wide audience. Consumers are generally pretty uninformed, nutritional science isn't always super straightforward, and I'd be surprised if it wasn't the case that a substantial number of people assume that meat alternatives are healthier for you.

The article does mention the real impact of meat replacements (though it's not great at this, phrasing it as "As always, it's only about helping a corporation's bottom line" due to the PR from increased sensitivity to climate change et al).

Abuse of the concept of a strawman is really rife here these days. Strawmen are relative to context, and you don't get to project whatever random conversation you feel like onto an article and then claim that it's not sticking to points relevant to that conversation. The article, for all its problems, is not making the argument that meat alternatives have no value.


Yes, this article is very close to being the dumbest possible take. It is difficult to believe it's sincere.

For me - first and foremost is climate impact of livestock, particularly cows. Second is the ethics of current meat production and animal cruelty - the "one bad day" approach to livestock is far more ethical and not at all compatible with current meat consumption and prices. Third is the non-climate impact of livestock like antibiotic overuse and massive monetary and unpriced land use subsidies given to the industry.


“[writer] is writer, certified personal trainer and certified nutritionist behind the popular weight loss blog ... “

I’m not convinced those credentials add up to a position of authority on ecology or internal medicine - or HN-worthy content for that matter...


> It is difficult to believe it's sincere.

I believe it's sincere.

Sincere in the interest of the multibillion dollar meat industry agenda.


I have a hard time believing there is any objective definition of “healthy” foods. It seems to me that the healthiness of a food is entirely dependent on the state of the individual consuming it. A can of spam is “healthy” for a person on the verge of starving to death. Likewise, a kale salad is “unhealthy” for a sedentary person that just consumed 20k calories.

I don’t believe there are any healthy or unhealthy individual food items. Rather, it’s the individuals diet that is healthy or unhealthy.


Straight from https://www.beyondmeat.com/about/

> By shifting from animal, to plant-based meat, we are creating one savory solution that solves four growing issues attributed to livestock production:

> human health

> climate change

> constraints on natural resources

> animal welfare.

You and article are both correct that the 1st of those four is a weak reason.

(FYI, Impossible Foods marketing promotes environment impact exclusively, no human health or animal rights.)


> No one eats fake meat to be healthier

I know people who do eat fake meat to be healthier


> I know people who do eat fake meat to be healthier

I know people that drink fruit juice (sugar) all the time thinking they'll get healthier but end up getting fat.

Point is? People are dumb. It's not the product's fault.


They believe it's healthier because Beyond Meat actually claims it's healthier on their website and in marketing.


It is though. It doesn't cause cancer and it's not injected with antibiotics.


> It is though.

Do you have any data to support this claim? Does any of that data specifically compare the two?

> it's not injected with antibiotics.

You can buy meat that hasn't been


Yes but thats not the meat the article is comparing to is it.


I don't think that claim can be proven yet. It takes a bit for that research to come out to say it may or may not and this is a relatively new product.


Yes, and articles that do their part to debunk misconceptions commonly-held by these "dumb" people aren't strawmen. Popular coverage of misconceptions is a big part of how alternative facts and superstitions lose their power. That's the whole point being made here.


Not really. I would wager most consumers are actually under the impression fake meats are in some way healthier.

The article is not particularly well-written or informative, but I don't think they're making a straw man argument.

Fast food companies will try to market this stuff as in some way healthier, because that's what will sell.

Unfortunately, opposition to animal cruelty and anthropogenic climate change just aren't great motivators of consumer behavior.

Yet. I wouldn't be surprised if consumer preferences shift and it becomes profitable to market meatless meats as more humane and better for the environment.


Thank you - brilliantly said. Not to mention the WHO classified red meat as a carcinogen[1] I don't think they've got plant-based burgers on that list yet (or ever will). So again - healthier.

1. https://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/


My understanding is that this is essentially a mistake in that the red meat studies included deli meats like hot dog, ham and bologna.

If you eliminate those meats then red meat alone is perfectly fine.


I ordered the impossible burger because I thought it was healthier. I can't imagine I'm the only one. Their website and marketing insinuates its healthier too although as has been pointed out here in a very tricky way.


I never understood this, people who don't eat meat because of ethical reasons but still like the taste... assuming it's done out of compassion, maybe also work on changing your TASTE for animal flesh! If replicating meat was easy, i would understand, however the extent to which the fake meat industry goes to repicate animal taste suggests that the demand is high. At least this is cognitive dissonance since there is compassion and empathy towards animals while at the same time a high demand for the TASTE of the flesh of an animal. A creature that is supposedly precious and should not suffer or die for the sake of becoming human food... with one small exception: it tastes great so let's ignore that detail and keep loving how these poor creatures taste.


I don't get your argument at all. Taste is hard to change, it's very much hard-coded to our brain. Artificial meat makes it easier to do the right thing, so it seems to me like a very much unambivalently good thing.


A lot of vegetarians/vegans I know think eating vegan food is automatically healthier than eating animal products. Of course, none of them are scientifically inclined.


Healthier than what? I buy antibiotic free grass fed beef from local farms.


Odds are that the PR flack for beef trade association reached out to their contacts in various media organizations and encouraged these type of articles to be written. SOP.


Actually I can't find any P.R. from Beyond Meat that claims its stuff is healthier. I can't see that Subway said the new stuff was healthier either. Here's a sample press release: https://www.bloomberg.com/press-releases/2019-08-07/subway-r...

Impossible Foods is pretty similar, although they do claim they looked for ingredients that are "better for people" which implies being healthier but isn't even that specific. https://www.whitecastle.com/pdfs/New_Impossible_Slider_FAQ.p...


It's right here in bullet 1:

https://www.beyondmeat.com/about/

Plant based meat is "Improving Human Health", vs Animal based meat which according to them has "16% Increased cancer risk", and "21% Increased Heart Disease Risk.


Beyond Meat claims its 'better for you' right at the top of their products page:

https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/


Yeah "Better for people" could mean that it's better for people's environment due to lower greenhouse gas emissions.


Poe's law in full effect, I'm genuinely unsure if this is a joke. "Better for people" reads to every layperson as "good for you".


Also Beyond meat's main product page (https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/) literally says "better for you": "Imagine your favorite meaty dishes like burgers and tacos delivering the juicy, delicious taste you know and love, while being better for you [...]".


Does it, though? I would assume they would say "Better for you" if they meant it was healthier, and "Better for people" if they meant it was better for humanity as a whole.

I guess it could be read either way, though.

edit: although looking at the actual pdf, it says "better for people and the environment", which hurts my interpretation of the wording.


I'm with tshannon, unsarcastically. It might even mean better for people morally, without affecting the person physically at all.


My point though is, if that is what they meant, there is an obvious difference between what was said and what they mean in normal interpretations, and I'm almost inclined to believe it's purposefully deceptive.

There are much clearer ways to state that, like "better for the environment".


Yeah it's extremely weaselly no matter what. It doesn't make any particular health claims, plus it says they "looked for" such ingredients and does not claim that they found them or used them.


"Better, for people!"


To Serve Man


It says "Improving Human Health" in the leftmost graphic on https://www.beyondmeat.com/about/, and they list specific medical ailments under that. Only a lawyer could try to make the argument these weren't pitched as better health options than burgers, and even then, I would not want to be that lawyer.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNw95c75g7o

"Eat recycled food for a happier healthier life, be kind and peaceful to each other, eat recycled food. Recycled food is good for the environment, and ok for you."


It's true that plant-based meat's health claims are overblown, but could this article be any worse at criticizing them?

First of all, as others have mentioned, the main reason people go vegan or vegetarian is ethical concerns with animal cruelty, not health:

https://vomadlife.com/blogs/news/why-most-people-go-vegan-20...

https://faunalytics.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Fundament...

And this is a worthless criticism of plant-based meat:

has comparable caloric and fat levels as its meat-based counterpart ... more calories, more fat and more sodium than the meaty original

Different fats vary wildly in how unhealthy they are. "In fact, some fats actually help promote good health." [1] Saturated fats (mainly found naturally in meat) is much less healthy than unsaturated fats (mainly found naturally in plants) and Omega-3 fats (mainly found naturally in fish) [1].

This doesn't mean it's as simple as meat fats = unhealthy and plant fats = healthy: trans fats are mainly made synthetically from unsaturated plant fats, but are widely considered as unhealthy or worse than saturated meat fats [1]. Coconut oil, even though it comes from a plant, is actually a saturated fat, and the evidence we have suggests it is less healthy for you than other, unsaturated plant fats, although the same evidence also suggests that it's healthier than typical meat fats like butter and lard [2].

[1]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-h... [2]: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/coconut-oil


This article uses arguments like "Large quantities of dietary fat, with the potential to clog arteries in an otherwise average American" so casually I'm guessing most people would be shocked to find out it doesn't have much basis.


Which is the crux of why many people mistakenly believe fake meats are healthier (or at least "less harmful") than real meat.


You think I go to FatBurger for my health, my contrarian journalist? No, here's what those two products aren't: made from slaughtered animals. With a side of onion rings, please, and ranch dressing on the side. Health, phhhhhht.


I eat food from grocery stores, not from fast food restaurants. I buy burger patties and ground beef regularly, and right next to them in the cooler is a stack of Beyond Meat packages. I'm very influenced in my choice by which I think is healthier for me. It's not my only criteria but it is the primary one. So information about the relative healthiness of cow vs plant based burgers is very relevant to me. Not everyone reading this article is a hypocrite trying to justify their ranch dressing intake.

In the end I think that beef is healthier than pea protein isolate and canola oil. In fact I avoid both legumes and polyunsaturated oils, so this isn't a tough choice for me. The fat and protein profiles of beef are better, it has a lower carbohydrate load which helps to control diabetes, and is better tolerated by people with IBS.

I may be wrong, but don't pretend that people who disagree with you are trivializing this choice. It has a direct effect on how many healthy years we have left.


> I avoid ... polyunsaturated oils ... The fat and protein profiles of beef are better

I'm confused. Every source I can find says that with diabetes, saturated fats are worse for you and unsaturated fats are better for you (same as without diabetes):

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-understanding-fat

https://ucdintegrativemedicine.com/2016/09/diet-diabetes-sat...

https://www.joslin.org/info/5-common-food-myths-for-people-w...

https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eat...

https://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/diabetes-13/diab...

Why do you believe that because of your diabetes, the saturated fat in beef is better for you than unsaturated oils?


I believe that because of my diabetes lower carb amounts are better for me. Much of the diabetes establishment still doesn't believe this, but going very low carb has had a massive benefit to my personal health. This is a hugely contentious issue in nutrition in recent years, and I find my self firmly on the side of Gary Taubes, Nina Teicholz and friends.

I particularly recommend "The Big Fat Surprise" by Teicholz on the subject of the health of various fats. Her research goes flat against a wide variety of authorities ... and I find it very convincing. It sure changed what's on my plate.


look at "Good Calories Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes https://www.amazon.com/Good-Calories-Bad-Gary-Taubes-ebook/d...

as well as "The Big Fat Surprise" by Nina Teicholz as mentioned.

Each of these paints a fully researched rebuttal to the mainline nutrition science sources you cite. Roughly "All of modern nutrition science is woefully corrupted, since about 1940".


Eating at a lower trophic level reduces your energy consumption and therefore your pollution output. If you are able to do that with foods that are close to the general macro and vitamin content of a burger, and it tastes about as good (or identical, as I see at times), then shouldn't it be an ethical imperative, given what we know today about climate change?

I mean, I know that humanity will survive climate change, I have every hope & belief, but the earlier that we work on it, both individually and collectively, the better off we'll be. This whole thing about "individual health" is just more tragedy of the commons, especially when the quality of health of the food is so similar - both will get you equally obese.

If we are talking about health and human welfare, there exists a lot of lower hanging fruit than concern about the miniscule differences between beyond meat and that which comes from cattle, but the ecological arguments that can be made are undeniable - impossible and beyond blow beef out of the water.


"Water, Pea Protein Isolate*, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Rice Protein, Natural Flavors, Cocoa Butter, Mung Bean Protein, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Apple Extract, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vinegar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Lecithin, Pomegranate Fruit Powder, Beet Juice Extract (for color)" vs "Beef" is a minuscule difference?


Do you realize that there are many scary-sounding chemicals in a cow's digestive system too? That's not even counting things like artificial growth hormones and antibiotics. Beef is a processed food too. You could feed a lot of these same ingredients to a cow to get beef. How is that really better? One processing system is repeatable and auditable. The other says moo. I'm not saying the organic ambulatory processor is worse, but we need to get past assuming it's better.


> Heart disease and cases of type 2 diabetes are on the rise, no matter where you look, and research has suggested that cutting red meat and processed meats (like bologna and other deli meats) might help people facing these conditions.

> And an excessive amount of salt in one's diet has been linked in several different ways to

There are so many massive food myths in here. Sugar, carbohydrates and the resulting inflammation are what leads to excessive weight gain, not fat. If we ate similar levels of fat and way fewer carbs, we would be healthier. That's what the diet use to be in many western nations before the obesity trend that started just a few decades ago.

I think what this article highlights more than anything is that people still have no idea what is and isn't healthy in America and the west. It's so difficult to find food in groceries stores in America that isn't loaded down with sugar, starch or high fructose corn syrup.


> Sugar, carbohydrates and the resulting inflammation are what leads to excessive weight gain, not fat.

Weight gain comes from excess calories. Fat has 9kcal/gram, carbs have 4kcal/gram. There are arguments to be made about physiological reactions to certain foods re: gut microbiome, ghrelin, dopamine, etc. but saying "carbs bad, eat fat!" is the kind of over-simplification that marketers love and keeps fat people fat because they want so badly to believe they don't have to suffer to lose weight.

Source: lost and kept off over 150lbs, no thanks to fad diet bullshit.



Is this an appeal to the authority? Gary Taubes, as far as I can tell, has no background in nutritional science whatsoever. In fact, the wikipedia article on him states rather matter-of-factly "Some of the views propounded by Taubes are inconsistent with known science surrounding obesity."


No kidding. Not only is fat not bad for you. It helps with vitamin absorption. You’re indeed better off eating a salad with fatty dressing than not.


> It's so difficult to find food in groceries stores in America that isn't loaded down with sugar, starch or high fructose corn syrup.

It's not hard, you just go to the fruit/veg/meat/fish sections.


Agreed.

I care more about the sourcing (eg palm oil), kind of fats, kind of carbs, nutritional content. Bonus points for mixing in misc kinds of fiber.

I was heading vegan for a while. Veggie burgers and meat substitutes are (can be) delicious. More please!

Sadly, I didn't understand anything about nutrition. And my health suffered for it. So I eventually resumed eating meat, esp. organ meat.

I'm looking forward to future engineered foods, like vat grown meat, that cover the nutritional basics. Versus these offerings, which appear to be just savory (vs sweet) treats.


> cutting red meat and processed meats

There's a huge difference between red meat and processed meats.

We're just pilling on here. I think we have learned by now that the value of these sorts of articles are somewhere below the bar required for reading them. Why do we care about an article about "food health" coming from a reporter?

https://twitter.com/AdrianLam82


Not arguing, but let's caveat that with 3000 extra kCal of fat are still going to get you fat. It's not some miracle, it just happens that you will have a much harder time eating that much fat, especially when compared to the equivalent in sugary treats.


I speculate that veganism and vegetarianism is strongly correlated with food health consciousness in general, thus fostering a sense of equivalency between veganism and vegetarianism with "healthy". French fries are vegan. Maple syrup is vegan. Chocolate is vegan (as long as it doesn't have animal fat added to it). I can have a very unhealthy vegan meal that consists of french fries dipped in maple syrup and chocolate.


>French fries are vegan.

Not if from McD ;)


True, if animal based oil is used then anything that gets fried is rendered non-vegan.


It's healthier for the planet and your conscience.


Which is worse for the environment: growing one burger's worth of cow, or burning 15 min of propane to cook the burger?


Growing one burger's worth of cow.

The propane can easily be replaced with a different cooking method.


> Growing one burger's worth of cow.

Are there any numbers that support that?


Consider an electric stove powered by renewables.


Well if you cook your burger for 15 minutes, the burger itself will start contributing to greenhouse gas emissions as well as particulates...


It takes some time to heat a grill.


I don’t know why this question matters but it’s still the cow...


It does matter. If the propane is 10x the impact of growing the burger, you're not saving much by switching to a 'beyond burger'. Meanwhile if it's the other way around, the 'saving the environment' argument holds some weight.


By the same principle, if 10x as many burgers are cooked without propane than with propane, then your question is completely irrelevant.

Given that propane is about 5% of US home's primary heating fuel whereas electricity and natural gas together are 80%, that seems likely: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=18131


Cook it on an electric stove.


Yes but, make sure your electricity is from a renewable source as well!


This is an answer to a different question


We can ask many different sorts of questions. It doesn't take much imagination to come to the conclusion that you don't need propane to cook a burger.


Sure.... what is the most environmentally friendly way to cook a burger is an interesting question too. Slow cooker? Microwave? Barbecue, but cook several at once to reduce the per burger emission?

But the reality is that barbecueing a burger is a common way to cook them and I maintain that it is an interesting question to contrast the barbecueing impact to the growing impact..


Cook any number at a time by any method that consumes electricity and it doesn't matter, if that electricity comes from a renewable source.


Growing one cow requires many acres of the Amazon rainforest to be chopped down.

You can cook a burger with electric heat, which can be generated with solar or wind power.


To say it requires many acres to be chopped down is a stretch.


No, it's not a stretch, because that's literally what they're doing in the Amazon right now. They're razing enormous swathes of forest so that they can grow more cows.


Just because Brazilians are burning down their rainforest to raise cows doesn't actually mean they need to burn down their rainforest to raise cows. They could resort to, say, factory farming, in which case the cow will require far less space because it's trapped in a tiny enclosure.


Yeah. And that's bad. But it's not required to raise beef. See for example British and Irish beef.


Yes, but the worldwide beef demand keeps growing, and places like Britain and Ireland are likely tapped out, so now operations are expanding elsewhere.

Your comments is like saying "we don't have to do fracking!", when the answer is, yes, you do, to satisfy the ever-growing demand for oil.


A more reasonable statement is that increasing the scope of livestock operation in Brasil by one cow requires additional acres to be chopped down. The specific figure seems implausible; you'd think that a cleared acre can support a bunch of cows, not just one.


No, not really. The land there isn't actually good for grazing like other places (the American plains states for instance), so you need more acreage per cow.


Or they could import feed, or (someday in the hopefully-near future) they could grow the feed themselves in vertical farms (and/or grow more space-efficient crops for feed).


Doing both is worse than the latter.


I'll just leave this here for anyone interested in being informed:

https://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/



As a vegetarian I can tell you "vegetarian" doesn't always equate to "healthy." But vegetarians also like junk food occasionally and so it's nice that we have more options now. I see it as progress.


I used to have a weight problem when I grew up in an American suburb of Philly. I felt guilty eating fast food burgers, etc. Three decades later I live in a European capital and walk nearly everywhere. According to my watch I average over 10km per day, mostly without even trying. Now I eat burgers whenever I want and I'm normal body weight. Living in the city is better for the environment. So is eating plant-based food. The lesson here? You will probably always crave the same food but you have a choice where you live, how much you exercise, and what impact you have on the future of the planet. Fast food is never going to healthy enough for suburban couch potatoes who drive everywhere. That's not what it's for.


I do think we need to decouple healthy food and vegetarian/vegan food. After all no expects burgers to be healthy in the first place, and people enjoy eating unhealthy food occasional. Isn't there room for vegan junk/fast food?


A lot of junk food is already vegan. Oreos, Doritos, potato chips, most candy other than milk chocolate, etc.


Can't get past reading the headline because my BS alarm goes off when I hear "healthier" or "health food."

I have always thought of "health food" as a marketing term selling a lifestyle to people who can afford to pay for premium branded packaged stuff in a grocery store.

If you get past the headline (I peaked), the next thing you see is a KFC bucket. Do people walk into a fast food restaurant thinking they are going to get anything healthy?


Really tired of people thinking "healthy eating" is just calorie count and salt content. There's so much more to nutrition than these two numbers.


I also thought more modern research on salt is more nuanced than 'salt is bad for you'. I think the newer understanding is that salt is only bad for people who are 'salt sensitive', in which case it increases blood pressure. Many people's blood pressure is not affected by salt, and there does not seem to be a negative effect for those people.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-salt-bad-for-you


I'm guilty in that I use the sugar content as a proxy for healthy-ness when I'm at the grocery store.


That's certainly a much better proxy than fat or sodium, from what I understand.

I'm actively trying to cut sugar (and carbohydrates in general, but especially sugar), and have already noticed I feel a lot better. I don't know if it's actually contributing to weight loss, but not feeling completely worn out after eating a big meal is a benefit in and of itself.

One thing that makes it difficult is how much sugar is in everything (even in things that you'd think shouldn't need it, like jerky). Pork rinds have been a godsend for properly-carb-free snacking.


That's probably a pretty good proxy most of the time.


Weird article. Next up: Electric cars don’t give you more exercise than combustion ones?


I see a constant drumbeat of these kinds of stories/columns, and I've been wondering why. I guess there might be a few shills and short-sellers, but that can't be all of it. Ditto for the "contrarians" trying to get clicks or feel smarter by defying what by now is conventional wisdom.

The one group who really seem to take it personally are the long-time vegetarians/vegan advocates who would prefer that everyone switch to a completely unprocessed fat-free salt-free diet. Yeah, sure, wonderful, ain't gonna happen. It's almost like they feel they'll lose their identity if they allow these mere "vege-tourists" to enjoy their Beyond/Impossible burgers, so they do everything they can to maintain some separation and the "it's not really healthier" schtick is just a means to an end.


I wouldn't say it's completely not healthier. Red Meat is a class 2 carcinogen (WHO) and replacing it with plant based materials is a great strategy. The problem is all the Oil and sodium they add. I mean, the sodium might be balanced out by the rest of your diet. But, all that oil isn't good for you. Oil, even the best kind, still causes inflammatory effects: everything from canola oil to coconut oil or even olive oil will have an adverse effect on your enothelial cells that line your arteries.

So, on the one hand, removing red meat reduces your succeptibility to cancer. But adding in all that oil will increase inflammation and thus expose you to other health risks.


So we re-word this headline to “The Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat are no less unhealthy” and a substantial portion of this content becomes redundant.

It’s scarcely news that marketing and PR exist, nor that the world of pop nutrition is an indescribable mess of self-contradiction and snake oil sales. The author (scratch that — “ personal trainer and certified nutritionist behind a popular weight loss blog”) doesn’t mention the fibre content, lipid profile or nitrate content, all of which are relevant risk factors for significant disease.

The only actual nutrition claims seem to be Fat Bad and Salt Also Bad, which are 1980s nutrition touchstones, but don’t reflect the current state of research.


I love how all the comments here are bagging on the article, while completely ignoring:

1) The article does acknowledge that being "healthier" is not meant to be the goal of meat-replacements like Impossible/Beyond

2) The article serves as clarification for those who erroneously conflate "not made of meat" with "healthy"

3) At least one of the companies (Beyond Meat) does claim on its website that its products are meant to "improve human health" - ergo, are healthier than eating meat: https://www.beyondmeat.com/about/


Of course they're not. Look at the low fat trends. Low fat foods are entirely unhealthy for you because they're loaded with sugar to make them more palatable (which ironically turns into more fat than just eating the high fat variant since sugar is so much more energy dense).

I don't think these companies ever marketed them as healthier though. They marketed them as more sustainable by not using animals. I feel like a better argument/study is to see how much fuel is used to generate the plant biomatter for this stuff and compare it to the energy/water needed for beef. That's be a more compelling article.


>> sugar is so much more energy dense

Nope. Sugar and protein are 4kcal per gram, fat is 9kcal per gram. So fat is over twice the energy density of sugar. It's just not absorbed as easily, and it does not cause insulin spikes.


s/since sugar is so much more energy dense/since you have to use a lot more sugar to make it palatable./

It really is unfortunate. Also, you to digest it faster causing 1) blood sugar and insulin spikes, and 2) causing you to feel hungry again soon.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_energy#Nutrition_labels

Food component kJ/g kcal/g

Fat 37 9

Carbohydrates 17 4


The author is fairly active on twitter and I understand she replies to questions rather often. Let's ask her? Maybe there's more to her point than what was published.


I thought this dumb hot take had been debunked enough times already? People aren’t eating this stuff to be healthy, but to avoid being complicit in cowicide.


I agree, and that reality, that many people partake to vote against killing animals, scares the shit out of meat "farmers", who have tons of money (government subsidies too) to fight plant-burgers in a full on media war.

At least that seems to be happening.


"healthy" is a loaded word. The article brings up a few statistics about salt, fat, etc content, but that isn't the whole story about how meat consumption affects the human body.

That said. Yeah, I'm not eating a burger for a healthy lifestyle, but I do like alternatives.


Uhhh this seems like a silly article. Nobody has ever claimed these things are healthier. It's always been about producing this "food" without slaughtering animals and all the extremely inefficient processes involved (feedlots, methane emissions, inhumane conditions).

In other news, LED lightbulbs still run on fossil fuels!


Indeed. I wish this headline would stop popping up.

I'm eating burgers because they taste good. I'll order the Impossible Burger every chance I get because it really does taste close enough to beef that I can't tell the difference, and it has a much more acceptable environmental and ethical footprint.


Lots of companies are adverting it that way though, and not just the big ones. A quick search of menus found descriptions like:

"You'll have to stop in for Green Market's light and healthy menu, with treasures like the Impossible Burger Bowl and Avocado Caprese"

and

"A healthy, vegetarian plant based patty grilled and served on our brioche bun, lettuce and tomato."

Also saw this from a country club's website: "A new interest in using meatless foods for this season was sparked by our health-conscious Members and expanded offerings by some popular meatless food companies. We will begin using a vegan brand called Beyond Meat in some menu items.[...] We are excited to include a variety of healthy options for our Members and are looking forward to a great season!"

If menus and restaurants are calling it healthy it's a fair question to ask.


The companies may not be claiming it, but it's still a surprise to many people who are used to Morningstar hot dogs and the like (which I believe actually are healthier than the real thing)


I don’t think that’s true. There are two almost equally important aspects to imitation meats and a lesser third:

1. Require less energy input

2. Healthier than animal meat

3. Animal welfare (but this is less important for most people)

Imitation meat so far accomplished no 1 and no 3. It so far has not addressed no 2. It may be of equivalent health impact. We don’t know, but they are heavily (ultra as people like to say) processed foods... with additives and such. But some people get tripped up by looking mostly at no 1.


I agree with your first critique but I think the LED comparison isn't helpful.

Unlike these burgers, which aren't aiming to be healthier, LED lightbulbs aim (and succeed) at using less energy than their competition and thus contribute less to climate change. If the burgers both were healthier and similar to beef then they'd be like LED bulbs!


The analogy I was going for:

LED bulbs have the same effect (same brightness), while using 85% less energy. But in spite of that it's like still complaining that they run on fossil fuels as if that invalidates the efficiency gains.

Impossible burgers have the same effect (having a fatty, juicy burger) while ultimately being much less destructive to the environment. (They actually use something like 85% less water). But complaining about the fact that they aren't healthier is an attempt to take away from the other amazing advances involved.

I've had "lab-grown meat" (as I've called it) on my future-world wishlist for at least a decade. It seems like we could get rid of a host of problems (inefficiency, suffering, potential for bacteria and diseases like mad cow from meat, etc), by engineering our meat.

I suspect the health aspects will follow, as the next frontier, now that this stuff tastes close enough to meat, will be to reduce cholesterol and other effects.

After all, if you really think about it, 99% of the sensations related to eating food are before we swallow it. If we can replicate all those things (the touch, the smell, the taste, the sight) and start to engineer the internal effects, we could have our (artificial) cake and eat it too, correct?

I say this as someone who LOVES hamburgers, who is a big foodie. Apart from lack of food poisoning, there is fundamentally no difference in feeling in your stomach between fine dining food and a homemade sandwich. And the same goes for the effects on your health. So we should absolutely try to engineer these things for their effects on our bodies. But first you have to convince people to want to even put this stuff in their bodies. And that's what the appeal to the other 4 senses is.


But aren't they aiming for more energy efficiency with these burgers? And due to being plant based, aren't they succeeding?


Presumably the point of the comment was that vegetarian meat substitutes aim, identically to LED lighting, at being a more efficient substitute for the traditional product. "Healthy" is basically a strawman in the linked article.

You should {eat plants, use LEDs} because they use less energy.


Beyond Meat claims it's better for you in the first sentence on it's product landing page: https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/


> Nobody has ever claimed these things are healthier.

That's just not true, the supposed health benefits are touted everywhere. Beyond Meat literally claims their products are 'better for you' at the top of their website.

https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/


I would actually expect that to make the thing taste like meat, they would have to add a bunch of fat and grease. That can't be healthy, but I'm not really going to Burger King in the first place because I want a healthy meal.


they would have to add a bunch of fat and grease

In the case of the Impossible burger, they add coconut oil which is high in saturated fat. Some argue that the Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), lauric acid and caprylic acid, in coconut oil isn't as bad as other saturated fats, but the evidence is still unclear. Probably not worse than the fat in non-grass fed beef though.


i'm honestly really surprised by this! a lot of people go more vegetarian for the health benefits


> Nobody has ever claimed these things are healthier.

Beyond Meat literally does on their website.


Here's an HN thread full of comments claiming fake meats are healthier. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20867218


They are healthier than burgers (barely), but that's a really low bar. They are not health foods, and nobody is eating them because they think that they are.


Wow, what a garbage journalism


One has cholesterol


Extracted vegetable oils and soy protein are worse for you.


[citation needed]




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