Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Plant-Based Burgers: Are They “Healthier”?

A Veggie Burger

Meatless burgers have now become mainstream with their recent presence at Burger King, McDonald’s and supermarkets.  Subsequently a new debate on their health benefits and consumer acceptance will ensue. How do they compare to a regular meat burger and/or other so-called veggie burgers derived from plants (black bean, mushroom etc, etc.) Have you tried the Impossible Burger or a Beyond Beef Burger yet?


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Following a Plant-Based Diet? Simplified

The recommendation to follow a plant-based diet has been applauded as a  way to cut your risks of chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, hypertension, obesity and diabetes). The truth is that following this type of diet is healthy for our environment as well and many maintain that if we do not, we may not be able to sustain a high meat diet for the entire planet.

What does a plant-based diet really mean? Obviously eating more plants, but this important message needs more clarification. The following article simply tells us about some studies where a more vegetarian approach has resulted in some healthy outcomes. It even has some recipes (although I have not tried any).

There are some indications that even just cutting back on meat-based meals and increase healthier foods (less processed) can have benefits, even weight loss and maintenance. Many of the cultures studied around the world with the best health and longevity statistics occasionally eat some meat.



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The Clean Protein Revolution?

It is very hard to imagine a world where meat is not the center of most American plates.  Recently, plant-based diets have become more of a focus in terms of our overall health and the health of our planet. Now there is a new book, Clean Protein: The Revolution that Will Reshape Your Body, Your Energy, and Save Our Planet by Bruce Friedman and Kathy Freston. For a summary, CLICK HERE.

Food Facts and Fads has previously posted some real time news about some recent ventures into the interesting process of making “meat’ in  the laboratory. Would you try the “Impossible Burger”? For more on this provocative new product, CLICK HERE.

Bottom Line: The American consumer will ultimately decide on the acceptance of these new protein sources or will this  become mainstream or just a new fad?



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Making the Case for a Flexitarian Diet

Lately there have been a lot of articles on the vegan/vegetarian/plant-based diets as more people become aware of their healthy benefits. Changing your diet after years and years is not easy, so reading to help any transition  is imperative to reaching a successful change.

The following article describes some of the pitfalls the author had when trying this transition. Therefore, it may be helpful to those who earnestly want to try to make some positive dietary food changes. Being flexible and using common sense may be the key as suggested by the Flexitarian approach.


For more on the Flexitarian Diet CLICK HERE.

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The New Diet Fad – Lectin Free?


I have just finished taking a look at the newest fad diet, The Plant Paradox, by Steven Gundry, MD and after reading it have placed question marks around many of the statements he makes about this pseudoscientific work. He claims that plant components called lectins are at the root cause of many chronic diseases and if you follow his specific diet and take his supplements (there’s a red flag), you will be saved from damage from these nutrition villains.

The book does contain some half-truths and truth about plant biology but his main premise is not supported by legitimate science (or much science for that matter). There are two links below that illustrate these shortcomings.  If you have read this book, be aware of its drawbacks. In my humble opinion, this book would not pass a reputable peer review, one of the main tenets of the scientific method. SJF



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What is the Carnivore Diet?

Disclaimer: This post is not a recommendation. With that out of the way, in my opinion:

When compared to the standard American diet, some dietary patterns emerge that have some evidence of improved health. These include the Mediterranean, Paleolithic, DASH/low fat, low carbohydrate/healthy fat, and whole foods plant-based/vegan diets.

The best epidemiological evidence we have seen is the prevalence of low disease rates and increased longevity in populations of The Blue Zones. Their diets collectively appear to be related to more plant-based foods with meat used occasionally or as a condiment.

However, to be fair there is a history of high meat diets found HERE. that fuels the continuing diet debate about what  causes heart disease. The primary alleged culprit remains saturated fats. The comments following this article reflect the opinions of many who adamantly defend their biases on this topic whether it be vegan, vegetarian or meat, dairy, etc. etc.

Bottom Line: This diet is extremely restrictive and avoids healthy foods providing essential nutrients. There is limited research on its long-term effects and any one-size fits all approach should be met with caution. Any reported evidence appears (my opinion) to be anecdotal and conflicts with current and past diet recommendations.

For a  balanced and common sense approach on the Carnivore Diet:



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Omnivores: A Sensible Approach?

Eating a plant-based diet is now perceived as an improvement in our U.S. food culture for better health and longevity.

A new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science seems to put eating meat into a common sense and realistic perspective. Some important points emerge:

  • The feasibility of the current U.S diet conversion to a plant-based diet would have some complex considerations.
  • Would a plant-based diet provide the nutrients we need and now obtain from our current meat-centered diet?
  • Would the reduction of the amount of green house gas emissions be enough to make a decided difference?

The U.S. diet has its roots in people eating both plant and animal foods and has more recently become animal food centered. In an ideal world, in my opinion, animals would all be free-range roaming and not dosed with hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or experience the cruelties of the huge feedlot operations. But, realistically, current practices have a long way to go before this would ever be possible.

In the book, The Blue Zones Solution by Dan Buettner, writes: “In most Blue Zones people ate small amounts of pork, chicken, or lamb. Families traditionally slaughtered a pig or goat for festival celebrations, ate heartily, and preserved the leftovers for frying or as a condiment for flavor . Neither beef nor turkey figures significantly into the average Blue Zones.”  in some “healthy” cultures, meat is used as more of an accompaniment rather than the “main attraction.”

How would a conversion of the U.S. diet to a more plant-based diet affect our current environmental and nutrition status?


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A Meat Link to Heart Disease?


Two studies that address the links between meat consumption and heart disease.  Again, a plant-based diet comes out ahead of an animal – based diet which also agrees with the epidemiological evidence presented in “The Blue Zones.” However, correlation does not mean causation.




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What is a Flexitarian Diet?


The trend is on – eat more plants and try to incorporate them into your lifestyle.  But it’s not so easy, you say – You cannot totally give up meat. Here’s the diet for you- try a Flexitarian diet.


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The Power of Phytochemicals

Colorful vegetables and fruits

By Sally J. Feltner, PhD, RDN

When we hear the familiar advice “eat more fruits and vegetables” one may think initially that the reason is that these foods are loaded with vitamins and minerals. This is true, but there may be more to the story. They also are filled with compounds called phytochemicals derived from the Greek word, “phyton” meaning plants. Phytochemicals are compounds that include at least hundreds of biologically active non-nutriitious chemicals that confer potential health benefits not only to the plant but also to humans. Phytochemicals can often act as natural pesticides that help plants protect themselves from insects pests.

Some of healthy benefits offered by eating an array of colorful fruits and vegetables can include:

  • Carotenoids – some provide vitamin A and others function as antioxidant protection against free radical damage. They are found in orange and red -colored fruits and vegetables and leafy greens.
  • Flavonoids make capillary blood vessels stronger, block carcinogens and slow the growth of cancer cells. They are found in berries, citrus fruits, purple grapes, green tea and chocolate.
  • Indoles and isothiocynates increase the activity of enzymes that deactivate carcinogens, alter estrogen metabolism and affect gene expression. They are found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage
  • Sulfides and allium compounds deactivate carcinogens, kill bacteria, protect against heart disease and are found in onions, garlic, leeks and chives.
  • Phytoestrogens decrease cholesterol absorption, reduce the risk of colon cancer by slowing the growth of cancer cells. They are found in soy, tofu, soybeans, soy milk, flax seed and rye bread.
  • Sulforaphane detoxifies carcinogens, protect animals from breast cancer, and is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables.

Keep these compounds in mind whenever you are enjoying nutritious colorful fruits and vegetables. Bon appétit!!