Chemical-Based and Plant-Based Are Not Synonymous

In tonight's football game (or last night's football game if you are reading this in a subscriber's email), there is an ad for a fake meat burger. Vegans can cheer this ad because it and the product it represents could move people away from animal-based foods, and that is good for the environment and good for the animals. And non-vegans can cheer that too because we should all be concerned about the environment and about the cruelty that is at least associated with factory farming.

So, it might seem that any product like that that substitutes itself for meat is a good thing. And I would agree with that to a certain point. The point where I part company with that thinking though is when it comes to eating whole food, plant-based. We who are eating whole food, plant-based for our health are already eating in an environmentally-friendly and animal-friendly way. Adding fake meats and fake cheeses to our diets does not change that; it only makes us less healthy.

Many vegans I hear are applauding this move. They say that these products are not for vegans; they are for meat eaters. But I don't see anything to applaud in promoting carcinogenic and chronic disease-causing products for the sake of the environment or for the sake of the animals. We're animals too and our bodies have their own environments. We should treat ourselves and our body's environment with the same respect that we want to treat our external environment and the other animals.

Others applaud this move because of what they perceive to be its value as a transition food. But transition foods have never made sense to me. If you can't give up the taste of meat now, then what is going to drive you to do it later from fake meats? At some point, you just have to make a decision. I've said it before. I know people who have been eating fake animal products as transition foods for years and years and years. They never do make the decision to stop. And each time they use the product, they are hurting their health. And possibly more-so than if they had eaten real animal products. Dr. Greger classifies meat as a yellow light food to eat occasionally but he classifies highly processed foods as red light foods. Those fake meats and cheeses are generally considered highly processed foods.

I'm not saying to never ever eat any of these fake foods. I ate the Beyond Burger one time myself. And I've had the fake cheeses a couple of times. But that's during the entirety of my being whole food, plant-based, which is now going on six years. And when I did eat those foods, I considered it to be the same as if I had eaten meat, and I got myself right back on course afterwards. What I am saying is, if you're concerned about your health, whether you're vegan or not vegan, don't make a steady course of eating these foods.

I call these foods chemical-based rather than plant-based. Many of us wfpb eaters subconsciously think there are only two types of foods: animal-based and plant-based. So, if a food isn't animal-based then it must be plant-based. But that isn't true. There's a third category that I call chemical-based. And that's where the processed foods fall. There are plenty of good books out on this. Highly recommended is The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker and The Pleasure Trap by Dr. Douglas Lisle and Dr. Alan Goldhamer. Also, I wrote a blog on the subject at What's Wrong With Vegan Foods? Jeff Novick has also talked extensively on this subject, and he has said that if given the choice between eating in a steak house or eating in a vegan restaurant, he would choose the steak house.

To see success on a whole food, plant-based diet, you need to eat whole plant-based foods. Not animal-based foods. Not chemical-based foods. And not processed foods. The more whole plant-based foods you can eat, the healthier and happier you will be. And to current meat eaters, that's how I encourage them as well. I encourage them to get more fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts and seeds into their diets. The more of that they do, the more they'll be able to crowd out the animal products.

But I would never suggest switching to fake animal foods. While that can help the environment and the animals, it worsens your own personal health and your own personal environment and it does nothing to change your tastes toward eating plant-based foods. I will always encourage meat eaters to make a healthier switch to whole plant-based foods that goes just as far, if not further toward helping the environment and helping the animals.

J Lanning Smith
Twice the Man, Half the Weight
February 3, 2019