It looks like the plant-based burger craze is over...
In 2019, Beyond Meat (BYND) was worth more than $10 billion. The company's plant-based protein products became so popular, they made their way into fast-food chains around the U.S.
It seemed like the meatless revolution had arrived. But today, Beyond Meat is worth less than $700 million.
It's a fall I'm not losing any sleep over.
While there are lots of reasons some folks turned to completely plant-based diets, a popular one is the idea that avoiding most animal products automatically makes you healthy. But don't listen to the vegan propaganda machine.
Take a look at Beyond's burger... It's a highly processed food, which is a result of the company wanting to mimic meat. So despite the patty being plant-based, you won't find a ton of vegetables on the ingredients list...
Water, pea protein, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein, natural flavors, dried yeast, cocoa butter, methylcellulose, and less than 1% of potato starch, salt, potassium chloride, beet juice color, apple extract, pomegranate concentrate, sunflower lecithin, vinegar, lemon juice concentrate, vitamins and minerals (zinc sulfate, niacinamide [vitamin B3], pyridoxine hydrochloride [vitamin B6], cyanocobalamin [vitamin B12], and calcium pantothenate).
And while it has slightly less saturated fat than your typical beef patty, it still contains 25% of your recommended daily value (about 5 grams). An equivalent beef burger has about 6 grams.
Longtime readers know that when it comes to eating for your health, there's an even more important thing to avoid than just meat... added sugar and highly processed foods.
In a 2022 French study that tracked about 170,000 women over a period of up to 32 years, researchers observed a 14% reduction in breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women who avoided sugar, ate meat occasionally, and consumed primarily:
- whole grains
- non-starchy vegetables
- vegetable oils
Women who avoided meat and other animal products but consumed more processed foods and sugar had the higher cancer risk.
And this isn't the first time we've seen health risks associated with plant-based diets...
A 2017 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looked at data from three long-term national studies comprised of more than 200,000 participants. These folks answered surveys for 20 years about their lifestyle, diet, medical status, and other behaviors.
Unlike past research studies, this one zeroed in on those who claimed to follow a vegetarian diet, meaning they ate no meat. What they found was a divide between healthy and less healthy plant-based diets... And the less healthy ones had much higher rates of heart disease.
They focused mainly on two different vegetarian diets:
1) Healthy plant-based diet. This only contained "healthy" foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
2) Unhealthy plant-based diet. In addition to fruits and vegetables, folks ate potatoes, sugar, refined grains (white bread, white pasta, etc.) and sweetened beverages.
Diet No. 1 effectively lowered the risk of developing heart disease. But diet No. 2 increased the risk of heart disease.
Essentially, those who stuck to the healthy-food vegetarian diet had 25% lower risk compared with those who ate an unhealthy plant diet with meat.
But here's the kicker... Those in the second group had a 32% higher risk of heart disease compared with those who ate a healthy, plant-based diet with meat.
This study backs up what I've said for years... Avoid "white killers" like white flour and sugar.
That's because foods like these trigger chronic inflammation. And as I keep saying, inflammation is the root of heart disease.
If you truly want to cut your heart-disease risk, cut out these white killers first, along with trans fats, overly processed food, and artificial sweeteners.
Similarly, eat more anti-inflammatory foods. These foods contain phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables. These include lycopene (found in tomatoes), beta-carotene (found in carrots), and anthoxanthins (found in bananas).
Antioxidants also fight inflammation. Blueberries, my favorite food, are rich sources of antioxidants. You can also find antioxidants in coffee, dark chocolate, and wine.
Healthy plant-based diets can work and help reduce diabetes and heart-disease risk. That's why sticking to a whole-food-based diet like the Mediterranean diet will improve your overall health.
And remember, you don't have to cut out all meat. The key instead is to limit the white killers and pile on the fruits and vegetables.
If you follow a mostly plant-based diet, take a hard look at what you're actually eating. Is there a lot of sugar in your food? Are you eating mostly prepackaged, ultra-processed foods? If so, don't delude yourself that being plant-based is automatically healthy.
And do what I do... Stick to eating meat and fish once a week. And make sure every day you're eating a rainbow of foods, like leafy greens, blueberries, and beans.
What We're Reading...
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
September 21, 2023