As we are becoming more and more aware of the impact of animal farming on our resources, many people have embraced “Meatless Monday.” Wanting to cut down on meat in your diet is laudable for ethical and environmental reasons. Moreover, cutting back on meat may aid your health, depending on your health concerns. And, meatless meat products have been improving in recent years, with some people saying they cannot tell the difference. However, different additives and aspects of imitation meat may give you good reason to pause.
While we view imitation meats as healthier than meat, the fact is, it’s a manmade product. Beyond Burgers do not grow from the ground. Plant-based, replacement meats, can have well over 50 ingredients, to make them taste and feel like real meat. Having that many components makes it difficult to know what you’re eating, which is essential for people with health problems.
For instance, tertiary butylhydroquinone has been linked to vision problems in humans and tumor growth in rats. The preservative is added to imitation meat to stop discoloration. They can also contain the “yoga mat” chemical people were upset to learn about that is frequently found in bread, magnesium carbonate. The meats might be dyed with Red #3, banned in the 90s from cosmetics because it was linked to cancer. Meatless burgers may also contain a liquid found in e-cigarettes and a pesticide that kills slugs. These chemicals are found in small doses, probably too small to cause any harm. However, if you are trying to eat in a healthy, simple diet, replacement meats might not be for you.
There are also concerns that have nothing to do with additives; one should always read labels. The base of faux meat products varies greatly. Some meaty products have wheat as their base. This is a problem for people who have difficulties processing gluten and people who are watching their carbs.
There is a concern about dieticians that we automatically believe that meatless products are healthier when, in actuality, they can have more salt and fewer nutrients. A Beyond Burger — at the forefront of meatless burgers — has 380 mg of salt instead of the 75 mg in a regular burger patty. The “health halo effect” fools us into believing it’s good for us without questioning it. When the manufacturers are aiming to make plant-based meat, it’s unsurprising that it might not yield a health food. After all, if you are seeking to recreate a burger, you weren’t starting from a healthy position.
Less processed soy products, like tofu, soy milk and edamame are excellent forms of protein for people who are skipping meat as they don’t have a ton of additives trying to mimic animal proteins. As with any diet change, if you want to know if a food or lifestyle shift is right for you, speak to your doctor.