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Joy Bauer MS, RDN, CDN Debunks Myths Around Processed Foods

November 16, 2023


It's a common misconception that processed foods are harmful to your health but contrary to popular belief, many processed foods can be beneficial.

As a registered dietitian with academic credentials in kinesiological science and clinical nutrition, and extensive experience in culinary food science, I bring a unique, science-backed perspective to this often-misunderstood topic. Additionally, my role as a Nutrition Advisor to Beyond Meat enriches this dialogue, providing practical insights into making informed nutritional choices. Let’s dive into debunking a widespread myth, explore the science behind processed foods, and understand where Beyond Meat products fit in.

 Some of the most common, nutritious foods we eat are “processed,” including Greek yogurt, oatmeal, nut butter, high-fiber cereal, salsa, hummus, whole grain pasta and bread, and even canned and frozen vegetables. 

That means they undergo a process that alters them in some way during preparation, whether it’s by freezing, heating, cooling, dehydrating, canning, cooking or drying.

It’s important to understand that not all processed foods are created equal, and that processed foods only become problematic to our health when they’ve been processed in such a way that incorporates high levels of saturated fat, sodium, added sugar, etc., or that strips away many of the nutritional benefits (protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc.). Neither of those scenarios are true for Beyond Meat’s products and grouping them in a category with unhealthy processed foods is inaccurate and misleading.

Beyond Meat products possess health-promoting attributes and challenge the conventional view of processed foods. For instance, Beyond Steak is high in protein (21g per ~3 oz serving), low in saturated fat (1g per serving), and cholesterol-free. It has earned the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Certification, signifying adherence to stringent nutritional standards, including low saturated fat and sodium content, and significant essential nutrients. 

 Moreover, it's not just certifications that speak for Beyond Meat, it's science. A study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrates that participants who substituted their animal-based meat intake with Beyond Meat’s plant-based products experienced weight loss and a reduction in heart disease risk factors, which includes a decrease in LDL cholesterol and TMAO levels. It’s important to note that these positive changes occurred without participants altering any other aspect of their diet or exercise regimen. Further, daily sodium intake and blood pressure levels were consistent for participants between the animal-based meat and plant-based meat phases of the study, debunking the myth that plant-based meats are higher in sodium than animal-based meat once you account for seasoning. These results directly counter the notion that Beyond Meat products could be associated with weight gain or other health-related concerns like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, conditions often linked with the regular consumption of “ultra-processed” foods, like cookies and chips. 

With all of this said, I hope I’ve cleared up some of the confusion surrounding processed foods. If you’d like to dig deeper into the latest research on processed foods, I encourage you to read the November 2023 study from the World Health Organization. These findings are important, because they show that not all processed foods are created equal and only some are associated with an increased risk of cancer and cardiometabolic disease (cardiovascular disease and diabetes).

Healthfully yours, 
Joy Bauer MS, RDN, CDN


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