Crop Biotech Update

Plant-based Beyond Meat Offers a Healthier Option, Nutrition Experts Weigh In on the Hype

July 31, 2019
Nutrition experts say there is no research showing a Beyond Burger is a healthier food choice compared to eating beef (Source: www.cbc.ca)

Beyond Meat's plant-based burger is all the rage in Canada these days. Designed to mimic the taste of actual meat, it draws not only vegetarians but also meat lovers with its promise of being a healthier alternative to red meat.

Despite its popularity, health experts are still uncertain about it since there is no hard evidence at the moment to prove that the plant-based meat is a better option over beef, as promoted by the company. The fact that Beyond Burger has more than 20 ingredients easily qualifies it as a highly-processed food, according to Toronto-based registered dietitian Rosie Schwartz. "When Health Canada says we should be choosing more plant-based protein alternatives, I believe they're talking about whole foods. They're not talking about ultra-processed foods," she added.

Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown responded that health risks (e.g., cancer and health disease), which are usually linked with eating beef, should be taken into account before comparing their product to red and processed meat. He also encouraged people to be more discerning and do their own research.

A study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows that "the health implications of red and processed meat really stretch far beyond saturated fat levels" and that replacing meat with plant-based protein food can reduce the risk for premature death. Although these results are promising, Dr. Frank Hu, senior author of the study, pointed out that it hasn't been used to show that a processed plant-based burger is a healthier food choice.

For more information, read the news article in Genetic Literacy Project and CBC News.

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