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I'm trying to figure out if it's healthier to eat beef burgers or these "vegan burger" alternatives.

I know that factory farming is bad for the climate and, of course, the animals. So I recently tried the "Impossible Burger". I was pretty impressed! It looked, felt, and tasted like an animal burger. It even had "blood" when pressing the patty on the grill!

My family tries to eat healthy, so we usually only buy grass-fed organic meat. We try to avoid processed food and food with questionable ingredients like soy, (hydrogenated) seed oils, processed sugar, emulsifiers, gums, preservatives, etc.

photo of an impossible burger)
Impossible Meat Ingredients: Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Sunflower Oil, Coconut Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% Or Less Of: Methylcellulose, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Yeast Extract, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols (Antioxidant), L-tryptophan, Soy Protein Isolate, Zinc Gluconate, Niacin, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12. Image from Wikimedia

While the "impossible meat" tasted like beef (and it's obviously better for the environment), I was appalled when I saw the ingredients! I don't want to put anything in my body that will harm me, so I think I'll stick to eating animal protein for burger night.

My question is: has there been any studies comparing the short-term & long-term health effects of cow burgers & vegan burgers? Which is healthier?

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Health comparison

has there been any studies comparing short-term & long-term health effects of cow vs. vegan burgers

Because cow and vegan burgers are nutritionally different from one another, if you kept everything else equal nutritionally and only swapped out the cow burger for the vegan burger or the vegan burger for the cow burger and then didn't make adjustments, either way you would probably turn out with a deficiency in something.

Source: https://www.verywellhealth.com/plant-based-burgers-and-beef-burgers-nutrition-5192882

Foodstruct lets you compare a hamburger to a veggie (soy) burger nutritionally: https://foodstruct.com/compare/veggie-burger-vs-hamburger

Notable improvements for veggie over beef include: more fiber, minerals and vitamins (overall), and a greater ratio of polyunsaturated fats vs. saturated fats.

Alternatives

I don't want to put anything in my body that will harm me

Beef burgers are high in cholesterol, and if eaten, would need to be done sparingly to avoid adverse health outcomes. Eat-Lancet for example recommends not eating more than 4 oz a week. Mock-burgers that are meant to be imitate beef burgers are admittedly, probably not the healthiest option. Not all people want to be healthy all the time, and this is a treat that would best be enjoyed in moderation. So if you're a health nut, you should limit the beef burger and the mock burger.

Fortunately, such mock-burgers are not the only vegan option for putting on the grill. Here are some whole food burger recipes for the grill you could try:

  1. Portabello Burger: https://www.veggiesdontbite.com/vegan-grilled-portobello-mushroom-burgers/
  2. Walnut Chickpea Burger: https://lovingitvegan.com/vegan-burger/
  3. Seitan Burger: https://thecheekychickpea.com/best-vegan-burger-recipe/
  4. Mushroom Lentil Burger: https://thebananadiaries.com/easy-veggie-mushroom-lentil-burgers/
  5. Black Bean Burger: https://veganheaven.org/recipe/black-bean-patties-vegan-grillable/
  6. Artichoke Spinach Cauliflower Bean Burger: https://www.veganricha.com/artichoke-spinach-cauliflower-bean/

Seitan burger image from- https://thecheekychickpea.com/best-vegan-burger-recipe/

Is processed always bad?

We try to avoid processed food and food with questionable ingredients like soy, (hydrogenated) seed oils, processed sugar, emulsifiers, gums, preservatives, etc.

"Canola oil is a subject of concern due to the possibility of containing trans-fats, which are associated with significant health issues. However, it is important to note that canola oil contains very low levels of trans-fat. To provide a comparison, the fat of cattle, sheep, and cow's milk naturally contain around 2-5% of trans-fat as a percentage of the total fat."

table transfats

"Canola oil is a safe and healthy form of fat that will reduce blood LDL cholesterol levels and heart disease risk compared to carbohydrates or saturated fats such as found in beef tallow or butter. Indeed, in a randomized trial that showed one of the most striking reductions in risk of heart disease, canola oil was used as the primary form of fat."

Source: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/04/13/ask-the-expert-concerns-about-canola-oil/ , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwr7uQaVHzg

Fears relating to seed oils are likely overblown. There is no conclusive evidence that they cause any chronic illnesses. Furthermore, "vegetable oils likely have a beneficial role to play in the prevention of many diseases— particularly heart disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and potentially skin cancer."

Source: https://www.the-nutrivore.com/post/a-comprehensive-rebuttal-to-seed-oil-sophistry

Your family is concerned about seed oils, but not concerned about the carcinogens that are created by cooking the beef patty on the grill, namely heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons? "Meats cooked at high temperatures, especially above 300 ºF (as in grilling or pan frying), or that are cooked for a long time tend to form more HCAs".

Source: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet

"Grass-fed"

My family tries to eat healthy, so we usually only buy grass-fed organic meat.

There is not enough land for everyone to eat grass-fed meat. If we keep using land for beef production, we are headed for food insecurity. "While some sustainable food advocates propose shifting to “grass-fed” beef and dairy, there is only enough pasture land in the United States to support 27% of current beef production."

Source: https://grazingfacts.com/land-use, https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034015/pdf

Meat scientists say the difference between grass-finished and grain-finished is mostly flavor. Even though grass-finished has slightly less saturated fat, and slightly more omega fats, it's unlikely to make a difference.

Source: https://www.drovers.com/news/beef-production/no-grass-finished-beef-isnt-healthier-or-better-environment

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Considering the entire system, it's healthier to eat plant-based burgers than to eat animal-based burgers.

Ecological Health

My family tries to eat healthy

Holistically, health includes (at least):

  1. your bodies,
  2. your neighbor's bodies,
  3. bodies of water that supply drinking water,
  4. bodies of water where waste is dumped,
  5. our atmosphere and the air we breathe,
  6. etc

Cherry-picking only the health of your own family and ignoring the health of everything else is disingenuous and selfish

Which is healthier?

While there has been some effort to quantify the (environmental) health consequences, it's going to vary widely region-to-region.

Considering health holistically, it's obvious that plant-based food is healthier than eating animals.

Food Chain Length Efficiency

we usually only buy grass-fed organic meat

When you compare:

  1. The enormous ecological footprint caused by raising cows for food next to
  2. the footprint of growing plants for food

...the diet of the cows is negligible. Grass-fed doesn't matter. There's an enormous loss of energy in food chain length, regardless of which plants the cow eats.

Oxymoronic

Traditional burgers are unhealthy food. Saying you want a "healthy burger" is an oxymoron.

I don't want to put anything in my body that will harm me, so I think I'll stick to eating animal protein for burger night.

Eating animals (especially burgers) is harmful to your body. If you want to eat healthy, then you should definitely stop eating animal burgers. And you should probably avoid burgers altogether. Fortunately, there's a great assortment of healthy foods that are great grilled.

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