I recently had the opportunity to watch The Game Changers, a documentary on Netflix about the benefits of a plant-based diet. The film follows UFC fighter, James Wilks, journey of discovery about nutrition as he is recovering from a sports injury. He is introduced to a slew of new information about the benefits of a vegan diet, but must first overcome the doubts and years of “indoctrination” about the benefits of eating animal-based proteins as part of an elite athlete’s diet. The film makes extensive use of the stories of other elite athletes (including Arnold Schwarzenegger–one of the producers) who have followed a plant-based diet for a while. There are also segments featuring doctors, clinicians, and experts shedding light not only on the scientific data, but also the political and social aspects of the issue. A global switch to a plant-based diet would have huge implications for the environment and the economy.
The film was eye-opening in many ways, but also confirmed what I have read in other places. I myself am a pescatarian–meaning I do not eat poultry or red meat; I do eat fish (although not any crustaceans), as well as dairy products and eggs. I did not make the change for health reasons, but I did find that my switch to a more plant-based diet coincided with my first successes at competitive athletic events such as triathlons and 5k runs. I have competed in obstacle course races and half-marathons as well–mostly over the age of 50–without fueling up on meat and poultry beforehand. The film had me wondering about ways that I can cut even more animal-based products from my diet.
The film is definitely worth a view, but go into it with an open mind. The documentary definitely has its point of view but presents it in a non-judgmental way. One criticism of the film is that much of the story line focuses on anecdotal evidence, albeit rather convincing. It is often backed up with scientific studies, but there may be a need for more of them to really confirm the film’s thesis. Another criticism is that there should have been more information and guidance about what a healthy plant-based diet should look (and taste) like; peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread are plant-based, but I would not recommend it as a staple day in and day out.
Overall, I found this film to be thought-provoking…and even action-provoking.
It used to be a pretty lonely business going out to eat in a restaurant as a pescatarian/vegetarian. Other folks see 100 items on the menu, but we see 5 or 6…or at least we used to.
There is a boom in the plant-based food industry and it is not because there are suddenly more vegetarians or vegans. The NPD group, a market research firm based in New York State, is reporting that of all those purchasing and eating plant-based burgers 89% are not vegetarian or vegan! 89%!!!
My wife and I went out to dinner with friends this evening and one of them ordered an Impossible Burger (so did I!). He is a meat eater, but we convinced him to give it a try. He liked it. As the article states, it seems that plant-based foods have crossed a threshold; taste has finally caught up to what consumers are looking for. Those looking for variety in their diet want to try new things, but will only stick with it if the taste holds up. Products like the Impossible Burger or nearly everything made by Gardein (www.gardein.com) hold their own against animal-based products.
Of course, just because something is plant-based doesn’t mean that it is necessarily healthier to eat. When you order a burger at a restaurant, it may have some salt, pepper, and other spices mixed in but it is otherwise usually not highly processed. Compare this with an Impossible Burger’s ingredients and you’ll see that it is quite processed indeed.
Even so, as the taste meets a higher standard and profitability grows for plant-based food companies, we can expect to see more variety and more healthy options available for everyone–not just vegetarians. Given the impact of the meat industry on the environment, this could be a win for the planet as well.
This is an interesting and exciting trend and it is nice to know that as vegetarians we are not alone.
An interesting article appeared on http://www.cnn.com a few days ago with the following headline: “Vegetarians might have higher risk of stroke than meat eaters, study says.” NOOOOOOOO!
I have been a pescatarian for nearly 15 years and this news was shocking to me…or, at least, the headline was. Read the article, and one gets a very different story.
Although there is a higher risk of stroke (which some believe was a conclusion reached incorrectly by the researchers due to their misuse of “weighting” in the study), vegetarians are at a much lower risk of heart disease. In fact, the lower risk to heart health far outweighs the risk of stroke.
What was the “weighting?” The study took into account in classifying study subjects that vegetarians are, in general, more healthy than meat-eaters. Well, duh. The study comes from BMJ, a very well-respected journal out of London, UK. The article from CNN, though, suggests that more research is needed. So, nothing like publishing a misleading headline about an inconclusive and possible flawed study. I guess that is what they mean by click-bait.
By the way, pescatarians are not at the same risk of stroke and reap most of the benefits with regard to heart health. So you may still want to put those ribs down and reach for some halibut or salmon.
A warning: don’t just get your news from reading headlines–be they about health or any other topic–spend the few minutes needed to read the article–especially before you post it online or share it with friends.
I have had a lot of conversations with folks about the Impossible Burger. As a pescatarian (vegetarian who eats fish), I have heard that is as close to the “real thing” as anything out there. Unfortunately, it appears to only be available in certain restaurants, most of which are nowhere near where I live.
On a ride to Columbus, my wife and I were getting hungry; the timing of our drive meant that we hadn’t eaten lunch yet and it was near 3 pm. Then the light bulb went off in my head; Burger King has an Impossible Whopper and there was one at the next exit. We decided to give it a shot.
Let me say that aside from a bathroom stop on a long highway drive and the occasional meal from Subway, I have not been in a fast food establshment in a looooooong time. It was surreal just to walk into a BK in the first place. This place did not hide the Impossible Whopper, but rather prominently featured the plant-based burger on the outside and inside of the store.
So, how was it? It is kind of difficult for me to compare it with real meat since I have not eaten meat in so long that I really don’t remember the taste and texture. Compared with other beggie burgers, however, I have to admit that it was pretty good. It looks a lot like a burger (as does the Griller Prime from Morningstar Farms). What made it so special was that it was served with all the same fixings as a regular whopper; it really felt like eating fast food which is a memory from my pre-teen years.
In terms of how healthy it is, the Impossible Whopper is about 660 calories and the regular Whopper is about 675 so it’s not really a “diet” alternative to the all-beef burger. Leave off the mayo and the bun and would be a lot fewer calories. Also, the manager told us that you can request a “vegan” Whopper that will be cooked in a microwave instead of on the grill–although we were assured that when they grill the Impossible Whopper they clean off the cook top so there isn’t any meat residue; the vegan is also mayonnaise-free.
Would I eat an Impossible Whopper again? If I were on a road trip and looking for something quick to eat on the way, I would definitely consider it. As a regular meal, I don’t think so. The Impossible Whopper is itself not so high in calories, but add the fries and a drink and it’s not the healthiest combo. If you haven’t tried it, though, I recommend you give it a shot. It is good to support businesses that are making more alternatives available to vegetarians.