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Harvard Health Blog
Impossible and Beyond: How healthy are these meatless burgers?
- By Emily Gelsomin, MLA, RD, LDN, Contributor
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
To the comment by azure, grazing cattle is leading to the extinction of the few wild animals left in the USA, and every single thing you said about growing plants using up water and pesticides, means that great, you support everyone going vegan immediately, because it takes far more plants and water, to cycle through animals to produce food for humans than if we just ate the plants directly.
I find it depressing that the author of this article did not even mention that eating animals is barbaric and inhumane, and that this is perhaps also a great reason not to do so, especially when study after study has shown that people who eat plants and not animals have less cancer, heart disease, obesity and live longer and healthier lives, so there is no justification whatsoever to eat animals or their secretions in 2019.
The current meme on social media which I am sure uses this article to support its ‘argument’ about how some veggie burgers are processed, so we should all just carry on eating animals and their secretions while the amazon burns and we run out of water and the ice caps are melting and our waterways are choking with animal manure so that whatever fish humans haven’t already killed directly will die from this and other human-caused pollution, and so on, is patently absurd, with its implicit suggestion that all vegans eat are beyond burgers. Some of us eat the odd veggie burger here and there, some of us never eat veggie burgers, and some of us eat them all the time. Furthermore, some vegans don’t even eat the impossible burger since one of its ingredients was tested on animals.
300 billion animals are killed PER DAY around the world (this includes fish) for food, and all of this suffering, pollution, death and violence is completely unnecessary. Be part of the solution, be peaceful, be loving, be vegan. Thanks for reading.
This article is extremely misleading. The Beyond Burger and 70% lean ground beef have exactly the same saturated fat content. And although the Impossible Burger has more saturated fat than ground beef, it overall has less fat in total. There is also no mention that plant-based options are cholesterol-free, which is another major benefit.
I have been told that fetal calf blood is used in the manufacture of these “plant based” burgers. Is this correct?
A plant based burger show works well on the digestive system
“Since diets higher in saturated fat are associated with increased rates of both heart disease and premature death”
NOTHING wrong with Saturated Fat. It’s a complete myth. You should be discredited.
You neglected to mention plant based burgers have FIBER in them, which helps keep our hearts healthy! Sure the graphic shows this, but readers might not know the connection…as a dietitian I thought you would elaborate on that? And since beef and turkey has ZERO fiber and still have saturated fat, I would think plant based is HEALTHIER all around!
“The bottom line: Meatless burgers are good for the planet, but not always good for our health” Depends on where the saturated fat these very processed burger comes from doesn’t it? What if it’s palm oil? Which has been demonstrated to increase LDL levels? And is known to be produced in environmentally destructive ways, i.e, by clear cutting/burning tropical rain forest to create fields for creating palm plantations, i.e, mono crops, that exhaust the soil. Not so “good for the earth” then is it?
While I think CAFOs are environmentally destructive & very hard on cattle (just as some chicken farms that crowd chickens into too small areas and require that they receive continual low levels of antibiotics to increase their growth rate & not become ill from overcrowding (easy for illness to spread), I think there are parts of the world, including the US, where grazing animals (including buffalo) are the best use of the land. It was poor land use practices plus drought (poor practices made the effects of the drought worse, just as farming practices made the late 1800’s drought in MN, Dakotas far worse then it would otherwise have been) that dried up prairies that had been plowed and planted. Had those lands been left for grazing (not overgrazing) by buffalo or cattle, it’s likely the effects of drought would’ve been lessened.
Hard to believe the irrigation (and pesticides) used to grow cotton and other water hungry crops in CA and elsewhere (AZ) is a better and more efficient use of water then raising cattle or buffalo on the prairies. Or any other area in the world where the resident peoples (whether nomads or a people who moved to/from grazing grounds with their animals (that would include those who raise reindeer) and whose societies lasted for generations (without environmental degredation). Or irrigation dependent crops grown in eastern OR irrigated by water from dammed rivers in the Pacific Northwest. Those same dams provide electrical power (“clean” energy) yet are responsible for the sharp decline in salmon populations, lamphrey eels (eaten and used in other ways by PNW native Americans and other edible species that once lived in the dammed rivers. The analysis in this article ignores the complexity of water use issues for agriculture, forestry, and maintaining commercial fish & other river/estuarine species (or that may spend part of their life in the ocean). Not to omit mention of how other societal practices, burning coal, other forms of pollution and USDA supported pesticide use (such as arsenic) has resulted in fish that aren’t safe to eat except occasionally and not at all by pregnant women (mercury in tuna, other fish at the top of the ocean/estuarine food chain/that live a relatively long time), even more so if they’re “farmed”, and rice whose consumption should be limited because of arsenic levels. Because arsenic was once used as a rice pesticide and it sticks around for a long long time (in the soil). More in brown rice in then white. Unless it’s been grown outside of the US or in a part of the US where arsenic based pesticides weren’t used as much. Then there’s the huge range & variety of pesticides (which includes herbicides) used to grow so many plant crops in the US at this time–I believe 32 are approved for use on one kind of legume. Surely a cost, like water consumption, that needs to be considered in an analysis of the costs of growing plant foods.
No one eats a burger – veggie or otherwise – as a “heathy” choice. It’s unclear why veggie burgers are constantly held to this high standard. Looking at these numbers plant-based burgers certainly seem to be roughly equally healthy as meat burgers, with the possible exception of the higher sodium content.
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