If you count yourself among the one in three vegans choosing a plant-based diet for health reasons 1 , then think again before following the thronging crowds to pig out (if that’s not speciesist) on the growing range of vegan fast foods – particularly yummy burgers that try so hard to imitate those traditionally made from meat.
A reader sent me an article, entitled “Vegan burgers can contain more saturated fat than TWO McDonald’s Big Macs” 2 , which basically expanded on what’s clear from the article’s title.
Saturated fat – what’s the problem?
Consuming even moderate quantities of saturated fat has been proven 3 4 5 to be a really dumb option – if, that is, you want to be healthy. Naturally, if you don’t care about your health and the length of your useful life, then eating foods with saturated fat – especially if they’re also accompanied by lots of sugar, oil, salt and cholesterol – will certainly titillate your taste buds, while, of course, simultaneously totalling your ticker.
And it’s not just your heart that cringes when it sees those burgers or fatty patties approaching the hallowed doors of your intestinal tract. The following are just some of the conditions with strong links to saturated fat consumption 6 :
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Colon cancer
- Coronary artery lesions
- Decreased male fertility
- Hardening of the arteries
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol levels
- Intestinal lining breakdown
- Kidney problems
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Periodontal disease
- Skin aging and wrinkling
Oh, and I nearly forgot, also MS (Multiple Sclerosis), covered in detail in a previous blog 7 .
Surely vegan burgers can’t be that bad…they’re vegan!
This is the list of burgers mentioned in the article:
You’ll notice Marstons’ Moving Mountain’s B12 and Aldi’s The Meat Free Butcher: Juicy Quarter Pounder vegan burgers each contain more saturated fat than a McDonald’s Big Mac, and the vegan All Bar One Beyond Burger has more than a standard McDonald’s hamburger. Only Iceland’s vegan No Bull Burger drops below the saturated fat content of McDonald’s meaty offerings.
What’s the recommended daily allowance of saturated fat?
The answer to this depends on whether you want to eat the recommended amount for normal people who end up having all the normal diseases. If so, then the UK government health recommendations 8 are that the average man aged 19-64 years should eat no more than 30 g of saturated fat a day, while the average woman aged 19-64 years should eat no more than 20 g of saturated fat a day. Less for people younger or older than this. Meanwhile, the US FDA recommendations9 are that less than 20 g per day should be eaten, based on a 2,000 calorie diet – higher or lower depending on calorie requirements.
However, if you want the hard truth about tolerable limits of saturated fat (or trans fats or cholesterol) the answer is that anything above zero is not tolerable. “The Institute of Medicine did not set upper limits for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol because any intake level above zero increased bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol).” 5 10
What’s the saturated fat in vegan burgers?
Usually it’s coconut oil – one of the few plant-derived foods that is not recommended at all as part of a WFPB diet. A previous blog 11 , entitled “Coconut Oil is ‘Pure Poison’ says Harvard Professor” dealt with this Frankenfood 12 in more detail.
Pause for a giggle
At the start of this Mirror online article about the dangers of processed vegan foods, it was rather ironic that the video-advert included was for another super-unhealthy ultra-processed food:
They just can’t stop themselves, can they?
It’s no surprise that these ultra-processed 13 14 vegan burgers, and similar vegan fast foods, are modified in order to appeal to our vulnerable taste buds, in just the way that similar meat-based products are; but the fleeting buzz from all that fatty nonsense is always closely followed by a nasty sting. And whether you consciously feel it or not, the cells, tissues and organs within your body certainly do. You just have to look at some of the mass of research on dietary saturated fats, using brachial artery flow‐mediated dilation tests 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 , to see how much immediate damage is caused by consuming these foods.
Since coconut oil is 100% fat with 87% being saturated fat, my best advice to you is, if you come across a product that contains it, avoid it like the plague.
It gets repeated time and time again on this website, but the only way you can be absolutely certain you’re avoiding all these dietary pitfalls and food industry tricks is to eat the optimal diet for human health and longevity: a non-SOS WFPB diet.
Fancy a quick quiz?
- Vegan Society: Why Go Vegan?
- The Mirror: “Vegan burgers can contain more saturated fat than TWO McDonald’s Big Macs.” 13th February 2019.
- Ann Nutr Metab. 2017 Apr; 70(1): 26–33. Saturated Fat Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Ischemic Stroke: A Science Update. Joyce A. Nettleton, Ingeborg A. Brouwer, Johanna M. Geleijnse, and Gerard Hornstrad.
- PLoS One. 2017; 12(11): e0186672. Health effects of saturated and trans-fatty acid intake in children and adolescents: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Lisa Te Morenga, Jason M. Montez, C. Mary Schooling,
- Trumbo PR, Shimakawa T. Tolerable upper intake levels for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Nutr Rev. 2011 May;69(5):270-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00389.x.
- Nutritionfacts: Saturated Fat.
- Multiple Sclerosis & Saturated Fat
- NHS Eat Well: How to eat less saturated fat.
- US FDA: Saturated Fat.
- Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, & Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero. Michael Greger M.D. FACLM December 23rd, 2011 Volume 6.
- Coconut Oil is ‘Pure Poison’ says Harvard Professor
- Dr Fuhrman: Frankenfoods
- Ultra-Processed Food & Cancer
- All Ultra-Processed Foods Linked to Increased Cancer Links
- Blood viscosity/tissue oxygenation & plant-based diets
- Plotnick G. D., Corretti M. C., and Vogel R. A.. 1997. Effect of antioxidant vitamins on the transient impairment of endothelium—dependent brachial artery vasoactivity following a single high‐fat meal. JAMA 278:1682–1686.
- Vogel R. A., Corretti M. C., and Plotnick G. D.. 1997. Effect of a single high‐fat meal on endothelial function in healthy subjects. Am. J. Cardiol. 79:350–354.
- Bae J.‐H., Bassenge E., Kim K.‐B., Kim Y.‐N., Kim K.‐S., Lee H.‐J., et al. 2001. Postprandial hypertriglyceridemia impairs endothelial function by enhanced oxidant stress. Atherosclerosis 155:517–523.
- Tsai W.‐C., Li Y.‐H., Lin C.‐C., Chao T.‐H., and Chen J.‐H.. 2004. Effects of oxidative stress on endothelial function after a high‐fat meal. Clin. Sci. 106:315–319.
- Padilla J., Harris R. A., Fly A. D., Rink L. D., and Wallace J. P.. 2006. The effect of acute exercise on endothelial function following a high‐fat meal. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 98:256–262.
- Tucker W. J., Sawyer B. J., Jarrett C. L., Bhammar D. M., Ryder J. R., Angadi S. S., et al. 2018. High‐intensity interval exercise attenuates, but does not eliminate, endothelial dysfunction after a fast‐food meal. Am. J. Physiol. Heart Circ. Physiol. 314:H188–H194.
- Physiol Rep. 2018 Sep; 6(18): e13867. Fast‐food meal reduces peripheral artery endothelial function but not cerebral vascular hypercapnic reactivity in healthy young men. Jordan C. Patik, Wesley J. Tucker, Bryon M. Curtis, Michael D. Nelson, Aida Nasirian, Suwon Park, Robert M. Brothers.