A new study released yesterday, August 11, 2020, from Standford Medicine found that people who eat plant-based burgers instead of beef burgers helped their cardiovascular health. This small study backs up dozens of previous studies showing the health benefits of changing from a beef, pork, or lamb to go plant-based. Although most health professionals would advocate humans eat whole foods as opposed to processed foods, this and other studies are investigating if eating processed plant-based foods still have health benefits over eating meat.
Christopher Gardner, PhD, professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said, “There’s been this sort of backlash against these new meat alternatives. The question is, if you’re adding sodium and coconut oil, which is high in saturated fat, and using processed ingredients, is the product still actually healthy?” To find out, Gardner and his team gathered a group of over 30 individuals and assigned them to two different diets, each one for eight weeks. One diet called for at least two daily servings of meat — the options available were primarily red meat — and one called for at least two daily servings of plant-based meat.
The Standford study found a reduction in participant’s trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO. High levels of TMAO contribute to a heightened risk for clot-related events such as heart attack and stroke—even after researchers take into account conventional risk factors and markers of inflammation that might skew the results.
Many processed plant-based meat alternatives include various oils like coconut oil and canola oil. However, the famous Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. recommends avoiding oils. His research and other studies have shown processed oils injure the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. All oil is also empty calories. Esselstyn’s son Rip has created the Engine2Diet and a line of oil-free Plant Strong foods, including six different burgers, available at Whole Foods Market. Plant-based burgers and many other foods are now available at most restaurants, including fast food restaurants, so eating a healthier meal has never been more convenient.
So, the conclusion multiple studies have shown is that converting from meat to eating plant-based foods has many health benefits, especially for the heart. Fears of not getting enough protein are easily dismissed as numerous plant-based products not only have more protein than their meat alternatives, but they contain healthier proteins. And though eating whole foods is the healthiest route, even eating processed plant-based foods is a healthier path than eating animals.