It has been practically impossible to avoid the hype surrounding Beyond Meat. The Los Angeles based company has now garnered a large audience in Canada with their new line of plant-based burgers at A&W – and now in many grocery stores nationally.
A recent study done by Dalhousie University showed that the number of Canadians questioning the prevalence of meat in their diets is the highest it has ever been (6.4 million to be exact). This rise in consumer interest for plant-based food that is equal in taste and accessibility means the number of plant-based options seems infinite on the horizon.
Many studies show that following a plant-based diet decreases the risk for certain diseases and is beneficial for our health overall! Whether you interpret plant-based as omitting animal products completely or just reducing the amount you eat, both options have a positive impact on your health.
Plant-based eating should focus on eating minimally processed foods, a variation of fruits and vegetables, and limiting the amount of animal products one consumes. Which makes me think that the direction that plant-based eating is headed should not be the new norm.
Just because Beyond Meat is a plant-based burger, does not necessarily mean you it can become a common plant-based protein alternative in one’s diet. Many of the ingredients found on the back of the label are confusing to anyone not familiar with nutrition. Luckily, we are here to simplify it for you.
Beyond Meat Breakdown
Let’s do a breakdown what is in a Beyond Meat patty:
Starting with the macronutrients, a Beyond Meat patty has 40g of Carbs, 20g of protein, 22g of fat, and 3 g of fiber. The amount of fat in one serving not only surpasses the amount of protein, it is almost half of our daily value! Kudos on marketing though, Beyond Meat. They really got us with their high protein message!
Julia Kirouac is a certified Holistic Nutritionist and the founder/CEO of Nud Fud. On the topic of Beyond Meat, she has said that the quality of fats such as processed canola oil and coconut oil are not the best quality of fats one can consume.
Using coconut oil sparingly is not bad for our health, but it is important to note that it is 90% saturated fat. Healthier fats such as olive oil and avocado oil contain high amount of unsaturated fats, which lower “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol. Again, something to note when considering a Beyond Meat as the healthier option.
Something that has really been downplayed by Beyond Meat’s marketing is the amount of sodium each patty contains. The recommended adequate intake of sodium for an adult is 1500 mg per day. With an upper limit of 2300 mg per day. Meaning 1500 is more than enough for our body to function properly. A Beyond Meat has a whopping 1100 mg of sodium per patty! That’s not only almost equivalent to the adequate intake, it is well above it. Consuming too much sodium can increase one’s risk to developing Hypertension.
The main ingredient in the burger is pea protein isolate, which essentially is pea protein, just removed from the pea. Now for the other unknown stuff… Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide, which means it is a long-chain of sugars linked together. It comes from starch, which can be found in potato, corn, rice, and wheat. The bad news is that maltodextrin is closely related to corn syrup, making it a high glycemic food. This means it can spike your blood sugar if taken in large quantities. Something to be wary of if you’re a diabetic.
Gum Arabic is a complex polysaccharide (again, long-chained sugar) and it is indigestible by humans. Gum Arabic is used as a thickener and stabilizer in the food industry.
Methyl cellulose is made from cellulose, and in the food industry it is used as a thickener and emulsifier. It is often used as laxative too…
Ascorbic acid, also known as Vitamin C, is a powerful antioxidant. This means it can prevent the oxidation of plant pigments causing them to turn brown (think of apple slices turning brown after being left out in the open). In this case, Vitamin C is preventing the red pigments in Beyond Meat from turning into a color that doesn’t resemble conventional beef. Annato extract is a natural food coloring pigment originating from the seeds of the achioto tree found in Mexico and Brazil. Vegetable glycerin is a clear liquid with no odor that is used to impart a sweet taste.
All of this to say… that the ingredient list is nothing short of extensive. Veggie Burgers made from whole legumes and vegetables can satisfy the same craving all while only using a few spices and salt for flavor.
Why Unprocessed Food?
Adhering to a plant-based diet does not mean a person must gravitate more towards eating more processed foods. This is counter-intuitive to the wonderful health benefits that eating whole plants can have.
A study done by The U. S. National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases in Maryland found when comparing a non-processed diet to an ultra-processed one, the ultra-processed diet increased the calorie intake by 500 calories. This was attributed to the fact that participants on the unprocessed diet had a higher level of the appetite suppressing hormone: leptin, and lower levels of the hunger hormone: ghrelin. While participants on the ultra-processed diet were the opposite and consumed more calories because the texture of food was easier to chew.
The main message here is: If you are trying to eat more plant-based for the first time, or you are already an expert at it – The Beyond Meat should be a once-in-a-while treat, and not a regular occurrence. There are many recipes out there for veggie burgers, which contain the entire benefit of the plant – fiber and all. I implore you to try our own recipe curated here at Good Food For Good: it is a veggie slider which is inspired by Mexican flavors. Catch the recipe here: https://goodfoodforgood.ca/2014/01/03/delicous-vegetarian-sliders/
- Processed food is full of bad stuff, but the real problem is you eat too much of it | CBC Radio. (2019, May 21). Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/may-18-2019-our-plastics-problem-mystery-of-the-missing-brain-cells-overeating-processed-food-and-more-1.5138784/processed-food-is-full-of-bad-stuff-but-the-real-problem-is-you-eat-too-much-of-it-1.5138798
- Release: New Dalhousie study finds that 6.4 million Canadians limit the amount of meat they eat, and number will likely grow. (2018, October 30). Retrieved May 28, 2019, from https://www.dal.ca/faculty/management/news-events/news/2018/10/30/release__new_dalhousie_study_finds_that_6_4_million_canadians_limit_the_amount_of_meat_they_eat__and_number_will_likely_grow.html