November 14, 2019

Are Plant-Based Meats Healthy?

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Grace Derocha, registered dietitian and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, as well as Brandon Burbank, producer of A Healthier Michigan Podcast. Together, they discuss the growing popularity of plant-based meats, including the Impossible and Beyond Burgers.

“When you break down nutritionally, the contents of a burger versus a plant-based meat burger, it’s pretty equal in the respect of the macro nutrient breakdown… As a dietitian… you would think it would be a healthier alternative, which it is to a certain degree.” – Grace Derocha

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

  • The difference between vegetarian and vegan diets
  • Popular plant-based burgers
  • The science behind a burger’s taste, look, and feel
  • The nutritional value of plant-based meats
  • The side effects of soy
  • The importance of discussing dietary chances with a doctor


Chuck Gaidica: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast episode 41. Coming up, we discuss plant based meat. It seems like they’re everywhere now. What are they and how healthy are they for all of us?

Chuck Gaidica: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. This is the podcast dedicated to helping all of us navigate through life and improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits we can start implementing right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. Every other week, we’ll sit down with a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. We’ll dive into topics that cover nutrition and fitness and a whole lot more. And in this episode, we’re talking about plant based meats. How healthy are they for us? Because they seem, in many circles now, to be all the rage and they’re gaining a lot of interest. I don’t know about popularity yet, but certainly a lot of interest.

Chuck Gaidica: With me is registered dietitian and certified health coach, Grace Derocha, who’s back. She is not only an expert in all things nutrition but is here to help us navigate this idea of something you would think by default is good for us, and we don’t know what we don’t know.

Grace Derocha: It’s true.

Chuck Gaidica: So we’re going to turn to you and ask in just a minute. Brandon Burbank is here, he’s the producer of this podcast on a regular routine basis. Actually, even while he’s here in the studio, he’s producing.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah, yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: This is awesome. You’re a multitasker and you consider yourself a vegetarian?

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. I mean, I would just say meatless. I’ve been meatless for about two and a half years now.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. And what is the difference in that connotation? Why would you pause if I say vegetarian? What would be the difference in your mind?

Brandon Burbank: I mean, so between vegetarian, vegan, I think vegetarian still has some animal products and then vegans completely swear off animal products, yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh, I see. Okay.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. And there’s other ways, there’s ovo-lacto vegetarians, there’s pescatarians, who have fish.

Chuck Gaidica: Fish, yeah.

Grace Derocha: There’s flexitarian. I mean, there’s so many different names to categorize where you are in that spectrum of what food you enjoy.

Brandon Burbank: Right.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Okay, good. So we’re hearing about the name brands, Impossible Meat, Beyond Burger. Both of those companies went public on the New York Stock Exchange. They were kind of like the rage at the beginning and now their stocks have come back as they’re all trying to find their way how to market their brand and their product. But Brandon, you’ve been part of this for a while. There are a lot of other products that have been out there for a long time that are plant based that you may be know names of that are not new.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. I mean, especially like plant-based burgers or just vegetarian burgers. I feel like those have been around since the ’80s. So…

Chuck Gaidica: Black bean burger.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Falafel.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. Boca, Tofurky, those kind of things.

Chuck Gaidica: Wait a minute. Because I love this one.

Grace Derocha: He just wanted to say that… Chuck just wanted to say this.

Chuck Gaidica: Tofurky. What is Tofurky?

Brandon Burbank: I mean, essentially, it’s a brand name, but I think they have a lot of different things. I know they have sausages and stuff like that. It’s a plant based meat that’s more, I guess, has more vital wheat gluten, I guess you could say.

Chuck Gaidica: And it looks like a turkey roll, a meat roll.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Or turkey sausages of some kind, right?

Brandon Burbank: Yeah, definitely. Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. They make a few different things and the base of them is a soy based product.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay. So we’ve talked about in the past, Grace, this idea of processing. And when you start telling me that you’re going to take soy and it’s not really going to just be something I’m getting in my Thai food, right, I’m not just getting tofu, you’ve got to do a lot of something, something to turn that into meat, to something that looks like a burger. Right?

Grace Derocha: There’s some abracadabra action happening. And we’ve talked about processed food. So it’s funny because these plant based meats are processed, I mean, ultra processed essentially because of what they’re going through to become a burger or a chicken nugget that doesn’t have chicken.

Chuck Gaidica: Or something that looks like fish. I mean, it really is kind of across the board now, right?

Grace Derocha: Absolutely.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah, definitely.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Are you going out of your way, Brandon, in your walk of life to find foods that are going to trick your eye and your palette or are you still trying to eat as much as you can farm to table veggies?

Brandon Burbank: I try and do as much whole foods because I know, I hear Grace on the episodes all the time always saying, whole foods, whole foods, whole foods. So I definitely try and subscribe to that more. But I do keep my ear to the ground and kind of see what new stuff is coming out. So if there is a new product that comes out, I’ll definitely give it a go just to see what it tastes like. Because I think the biggest thing is that it’s not so much that these things are catered towards vegetarians or vegans. I think it’s more towards people that are already eating meat. And I think that, that’s the kind of shift that, in my opinion, I think that’s the shift that’s kind of happening.

Chuck Gaidica: And that’s also multi-pronged because there’s the environmental angle, right, that you hear so much about. And then, I’m out hiking with my son over the weekend and I hear him say, “Dad, there’s a study about how we should eat more crickets because by the pound, there’s more protein and less impact in the environment.” I’m thinking, it’s a bug. I mean, at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can really get wacky about. And I know there’s a study for everything…

Grace Derocha: Was that Matt?

Chuck Gaidica: It was Matt, yeah. But when you’ve eaten some of this stuff, do you have favorites? You don’t have to name the brands, but are there products that you say, “Man, that really tricks your palette and that stuff is awesome.”

Brandon Burbank: I mean, the main one that tricked my palette was Impossible, I’ll just say their brand name because it’s one of the bigger brand names out there now. But I think that was the one that made me go, “Did they mix up my order?” But I also think that most people that haven’t eaten meat in a while, they could swear by some of these things that it taste just like meat. But I think, also, when you stop eating me for a while, it’s one of the things where you kind of, I feel like I’ve forgotten how meat tastes after a while. So I think in that aspect, I’m telling my brain like, “Oh, yeah.” That’s it.

Chuck Gaidica: What drove you to stop eating meat?

Brandon Burbank: My girlfriend went vegan about three years ago, so I just did it out of support and curiosity really. That’s where I came from.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay. Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Oh, yeah. I was actually vegetarian for over a year, in college, that was a long time ago now. But it’s funny because you mentioned, there’s so many more products out today that we’re never, I mean, obviously…

Chuck Gaidica: Soy based hot dogs, you can get-

Grace Derocha: There’ was none of that.

Chuck Gaidica: … bacon that’s made out of tofu, right? Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. Oh god, I’m aging myself so badly, but there was none of that when I was in college and I was a vegetarian. So it’s interesting to see how that’s changed and the growth of the industry for a variety of reasons. So I’m interested to see how it plays out. I definitely have my own opinions on it as a dietitian or as just a human being.

Chuck Gaidica: Well, so we’re driving around and we look up on a sign now, fast food restaurants. It’s Impossible Burger seems to be the one that’s caught attention. But eventually, I’m sure there’ll be other alternatives, including Beyond Meat. I see that up on the sign and I’m tempted to think, “Okay, I’m hungry. It’s time for lunch. I didn’t really bring anything. I’m on the go.” Should that be a choice over a regular burger? Am I really helping myself I guess is the question.

Grace Derocha: Okay. So here we go.

Chuck Gaidica: We have hours, go ahead. Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Here we go. So here’s my the thing in general. When you break down nutritionally the contents of a burger versus a plant based meat burger, it’s pretty equal in the respect of the macro nutrient breakdown and the things in it.

Chuck Gaidica: But don’t you think they did that on purpose so that when I compare ground chuck to Impossible beef, I’m going to look at the protein, even the fat content, the portion size, it’s there because they made it similar.

Grace Derocha: I feel like to an extent, but I feel, and probably as a dietitian or as someone who thinks to myself, I’m going to have a plant based meat, that you would think it would be a healthier alternative, which it is to a certain degree.

Chuck Gaidica: Right.

Grace Derocha: And we can talk about pros and cons of that later, but the saturated fat is equal, if not higher in certain products depending on how big your burger is, the sodium content is higher, but then there’s good things. There’s fiber, there’s now you’re having more plants in your diet…

Chuck Gaidica: Right. So you’re pointing out something I find very intriguing, which is the idea that whether it’s the sodium, the salt they’re putting into this, or if you put this on a Whopper and you lather it up with mayo and tomato and the whole thing and it’s good enough, you can probably trick my palette. If you season it like Taco Bell meat and you add enough stuff, to be fair, I don’t know if I wouldn’t mind having it and I think that, to some extent, that’s their goal, to trick the palette, but we sure are adding a lot of stuff to kind of trick us.

Grace Derocha: Yeah.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.

Brandon Burbank: I think what’s interesting about it too is just the science that goes into it.

Chuck Gaidica: Right?

Brandon Burbank: The way they break it down. I mean, there are chemists and stuff like that breaking this stuff down to figure out how meat smells, how it tastes, and then…

Grace Derocha: The mouth feel, the texture. The… yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: How it sizzles when you put it in your pan at home, right?

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Right. Is it going to be like a charbroiled burger at Burger King?

Chuck Gaidica: Right.

Brandon Burbank: Right.

Grace Derocha: I mean, it kind of is.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah, because they broke it down to the point where I think they found some… it’s something called heme. That’s the…

Grace Derocha: Soy based.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Because most people think heme is iron when you’re talking about your blood.

Brandon Burbank: I have read that, yeah.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. So heme is another word for iron, but heme in this respect, go ahead, Brandon.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. It’s comes from myoglobin from what I read. And that’s the part that’s supposed to be the element that makes these plant based meats taste like meat and act like meat.

Grace Derocha: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: So that’s an irony in this whole process is you kind of said it off the top, Brandon, this idea that you’re trying to eat as whole as you can, whole foods as you can, and yet, oftentimes, the alternatives we’re being faced with are highly processed.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. And I just want to expand. So heme, just to be super clear, so heme is another word for saying iron, but in the respect of making… so heme is in Impossible Burgers. It’s a molecule found in the root of soy plants that helps kind of release the bleed in the burger.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh, interesting.

Grace Derocha: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: So that’s not beet juice died or something in the middle? That’s not…

Grace Derocha: So, yeah. So some of it is the heme and the other part is the beet juice for the color. Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Interesting. Wow. So they figured out how to trigger that.

Grace Derocha: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chuck Gaidica: And I’ve also noticed, and this is from a previous episode with Grace, and we’ve talked about this off mic, that the kind of fat that they’re adding, for various reasons, the sizzle, the taste to your palette, right, how does your palette gets satiated after you eat it, all that stuff, you’ve told us in the past, Grace, that a good fat versus bad fat, one of the tests is if you keep fat out during the day, right on the kitchen counter, if it stays hard, like coconut oil, may not be the best one to use, right-

Grace Derocha: Yeah, long-term. Yes.

Chuck Gaidica: … long-term, right? If you’re not just doing it in spurts, which you can do anything. I find it interesting that, that’s kind of where they’re going to create this eight or nine grams of saturated fat. So you’re taking all the good plant stuff again and you’re adding something in there to make me, “Oh, yeah. That’s really good fake ice cream,” or now, “That’s a really good fake burger.”

Grace Derocha: Coconut oil and cocoa butter are hard at room temperature.

Chuck Gaidica: Right.

Grace Derocha: They help the burger form…

Chuck Gaidica: For binding.

Grace Derocha: For binding purposes, and they look like marbling.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh, no kidding. Interesting. Yeah.

Grace Derocha: So if you saw the raw Impossible and Beyond Burger-

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. See, I’ve never seen it. I’ve just eaten one.

Grace Derocha: … you would see like there looks like there’s marbling in it and it’s from that. And again, just so we’re clear, I’m not saying that you can’t have some once in a while.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: But if you are really watching your heart health for whatever reasons, whether you have some uncontrollable risk factors, whether you have some controllable risk factors that now you’re trying to change, you have to be smart about some of the decisions you make.

Chuck Gaidica: So as you now step into this world, so you, first of all, you appreciate it, right?

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.

Chuck Gaidica: It’s something that appeals to you. Are you going out of your way to get these products more now or is it just still growing even for you, someone who’s in tune with it?

Brandon Burbank: I’ll try it out every once in awhile. I try my best to stick with the whole foods. But I think what’s nice about these kind of products is that it gives vegetarian and vegans more options. I think that’s what it’s really about. But at the same time, like Grace said, it’s not something that you should be doing everyday or that’s something that I wouldn’t want to be doing every day anyways.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. And because it still, for me, it still falls into that fast food category because of when you break it down and you’re looking at the nutritional value, you’re still getting high sodium, higher fat.

Chuck Gaidica: So I’ve had, I’ll give you my experiences, I’ve had few, but a couple. One is I had an awesome, I mean, killer burger at a restaurant. I think it was in Ferndale. Impossible burger, right? It tricked me completely. It’s got the pink in the middle. It was just so tasty and just well done. I’ve had another one, a burger, where I wouldn’t say it crumbled, but it kind of broke off into sections. It was almost like a bad meatloaf with too much breadcrumbs in it, like it didn’t bind well. It was still okay in taste. I’ve also asked at Qdoba to get a little sample in a cup of the crumbled meat that they’re now using, was good, but it was more like highly seasoned. And then I had the only really bad experience, and everybody should have one, it’s all of our first world experiences.

Chuck Gaidica: I go through a drive-thru, “Hey, I’d like one of those Impossible sliders.” “Oh, that’ll be seven minutes. Can you pull over and come in the store?” And I’m like, “No, this is America. We need it now.” So-

Grace Derocha: It’s called fast food for a reason.

Chuck Gaidica: … that’s just the mindset. Well, right. Right. I’m on the go, but I’m just joking about it.

Grace Derocha: Right, right, right.

Chuck Gaidica: I don’t know that, that, to me, means you’re not going to sell many.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: And I know it’s just the beginning. So overall, I would say, for somebody who’s not going out of their way, I’m just trying to try it. So far, so good. I’m waiting, as a non-vegetarian but somebody who leans veggie, I’m waiting for the blend. I’m waiting for the taco meat with plant… blended with a little something like take some diet Coke and add a little shot of regular and it tastes better. You know what I mean?

Grace Derocha: It’s funny that you say that. Because when I’m cooking at home, if I’m making chili, sometimes, I’ll use soy crumble with some turkey and mix it.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh, interesting. So you see? That’s what I mean.

Grace Derocha: Yeah, so that’s real…

Chuck Gaidica: That’s a good idea.

Grace Derocha: That’s my real life. Yeah. So I do that in spaghetti sauce because I feel like the crumbles can trick my family a little bit more. And when I mix it, I think I’ve talked about that even with spaghetti squash, I’ll get spaghetti squash and whole wheat-

Chuck Gaidica: Pasta?

Grace Derocha: … super thin angel hair and I’ll mix it so that everyone’s…

Chuck Gaidica: Interesting.

Grace Derocha: The kids are happy, Tom’s happy, I gave them some vegetables with their pasta. So finding that happy medium in there. Well, and I think it’s interesting too, because Impossible uses a soy base and then Beyond uses a few different proteins, pea, rice and mung bean protein. So there are different protein sources, both vegan, both plant-based, but I hear more, it’s not a bash on beyond, but I hear more often than not from most people that they like Impossible burgers better.

Chuck Gaidica: Have you tried both or one?

Grace Derocha: I have tried both.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah? And what’s your idea?

Grace Derocha: Brandon and I talked about this the other day. I think it tastes enough like it. I don’t like my mouth feel and I think it’s probably the coconut oil or the cocoa butter staying on my tongue and in my mouth.

Chuck Gaidica: So it’s got an aftertaste or is it just you?

Grace Derocha: Not even like a taste. It’s probably just me. And I would just rather have a falafel.

Chuck Gaidica: So for both of you, so your pallets are attuned to all kinds of things, if you had the chance to get the black bean burger, Impossible, the Beyond Meat, falafel, what would you choose if you’re on the run, like right now, would you have any in all of those?

Brandon Burbank: On the run, I would probably go falafel or black bean just because of just trying to pace out my week. But if I’m in a comfort food mood, then I would probably go with Impossible. Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Because it still falls into that fast food range. And yeah, me too. I love falafel, so I love chickpea, everything for life.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh, yeah. You can’t go wrong.

Grace Derocha: Hummus.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Chickpea. I’ll eat a can of chickpeas.

Chuck Gaidica: And a little tahini and some pickles in there and, oh, man.

Grace Derocha: Yeah, sign me up.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. I’m good for life. And a piece of pita bread, of course, I know you’re getting that. So Brandon, talk about this idea of the other stuff that’s added in. So you’re a vegetarian. Are you worried, and I know it’s the context is you, but are you worried about the sodium? Are you worried about the fat content or are you just really thinking, well it’s plant and it tastes good, I’m going for it?

Brandon Burbank: Well, when I first started it, I was using more of the frozen plant-based alternatives…

Chuck Gaidica: At home?

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. Yeah. So like Grace said, if I was making chili or spaghetti, I would use the crumbles. And then I started paying attention to how much sodium in it and I was like, “Ah, no. I can’t keep doing this,” because I feel like it’s just as bad of getting takeout with getting these ultra processed foods. So from there, I try and find other resources, like instead of doing this TVP or textured vegetable protein, I would do lentils instead. So if I was doing something to mimic hamburger meat, I would do lentils. So if I’m doing taco meat, I would do lentil meat or, “lentil meat.” That kind of stuff.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. So let’s go over a list of good and bad as we just kind of do a broad brush of these products, because I know, again, they’re individual. Let’s talk about the good, Grace. What would be in the list of some of the good things about these foods?

Grace Derocha: So because of the plant base and no animal products, they have no cholesterol. The only foods that have cholesterol are something that has any kind of animal product in it. So that’s a good thing. However, well, I’ll get to the bad in a second. So less worry about food poisoning. With meats, we have to cook at a certain temperature and make sure it stays at that temperature. So a little bit less worry about the potential for food poisoning or undercooked things.

Chuck Gaidica: Can I stop you there a minute?

Grace Derocha: Sure.

Chuck Gaidica: Is it just me or I’m looking at this wondering about the fast food restaurant industry and wondering if this isn’t a major test for them for maybe that very reason. The kind of patties, the food born illness, the freezing of meat, the transportation of meat, if they could figure out something that’s plant-based that can trick our palette enough, I think you’d see the whole industry change kind of fast if they push it hard enough because for them, moving, doing cooking robots eventually doing it, it just seems to me like from a business standpoint, it may make perfect sense for the drive-thru.

Grace Derocha: But plant still have to be at a certain temperature so you don’t get food borne illness.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay.

Brandon Burbank: Right.

Grace Derocha: But then, yeah, but then there’s less risk of that cooking temp to make sure it’s at that perfect temperature.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Okay, sorry, I digress.

Grace Derocha: No, that’s a great point. So there’s many options for GMO or gluten free as well as you’re kind of playing into this.

Chuck Gaidica: Right.

Grace Derocha: So you want to check that label and just make sure…

Chuck Gaidica: Are any of these truly gluten-free? Do you know the Impossible or Beyond Meat?

Grace Derocha: They can be.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: I’m trying to think off hand. I think both of them are.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, that’s a very interesting idea. Yeah.

Grace Derocha: But it depends on some of those mixers, some of the additives and preservatives. Are they using soy at all to make it salty, to add…

Chuck Gaidica: Or just throwing in gluten. It’s still vegetarian, but yeah.

Grace Derocha: Yeah, absolutely. More fiber. That’s a big one. So the average American is getting 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day and we should be getting 25 to 40.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh, okay.

Grace Derocha: So this is going to give you a kick, a fiber kick. And then the positive impact on the environment. That’s real. There’s a lot.

Chuck Gaidica: So you hear this list of good things. Are they appealing to you, Brandon? Do you feel like some of these are leading you toward eating more of this stuff?

Brandon Burbank: I still stand by treating it the same as fast food is fast food type of mindset. And it’s one of those things where, even if people are being told to eat less red meat, that’s kind of where my mindset is, these ultra processed foods are my red meats. I want to keep it to a limited consumption.

Grace Derocha: Moderation.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah, for sure.

Chuck Gaidica: But there are a lot of people who are, they’ve kind of gone off of the standard or traditional routes for red meat and they’re getting grain fed beef that comes from somewhere. You can’t get a lot of it, but if you’re only having, I’ve learned this from Grace, if you’re only getting a deck of cards size portion of protein anyway, I mean, you don’t mind spending a little bit more like some people pay for organic veggies.

Grace Derocha: Right.

Chuck Gaidica: If you’re bringing in your protein and you know where it’s coming from and you know it’s good and it’s doesn’t have hormones and all that.

Grace Derocha: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: I know people that are really finding a balance. Like me, I would say I lean veggie, but yet, if I can get a good portion of fish or protein, I’m still okay.

Grace Derocha: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I definitely have plant-based powered meals often.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: This is kind of my own thing, but usually, once a day is probably a vegetarian meal, if not twice.

Chuck Gaidica: That’s interesting. Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Well, it depends. Pescatarian.

Chuck Gaidica: So let’s go to the bad side, because I have a question about this-

Grace Derocha: Okay.

Chuck Gaidica: … which I think is maybe just for the guys, but go ahead, what are the bad, some of the bad that we have to worry about?

Grace Derocha: Sodium.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Sodium’s high, usually even higher because they’re trying to flavor it to give you that, I’m a burger.

Chuck Gaidica: Well, sugar and salt.

Grace Derocha: I’m… yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: You had enough to certain…

Grace Derocha: Sugar, salt and fat. Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Or I’m a chicken nugget.

Brandon Burbank: Isn’t that used to preserve it too?

Grace Derocha: Yes.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: So sodium is definitely a preservative and additive.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: But it’s also, yeah, for flavor. So double whammy. Most people think that it has less saturated fat, doesn’t necessarily, it’s ultra processed. I’ve kind of touched on all these things. And the caloric, calorie energy intake is the same.

Chuck Gaidica: It’s the same.

Grace Derocha: It really is.

Chuck Gaidica: So it really is kind of designed to compete head to head with that portion of meat burger.

Grace Derocha: I think being vegan or vegetarian is buzz-worthy and I think it can be healthier. I think it’s tricky. I think it’s a slippery slope with diving into this fully. So just a few things to kind of think about.

Chuck Gaidica: I think, my personal view is that once we get enough of this stuff to kind of inundate us so it’s becoming more normal, whatever that means-

Grace Derocha: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: … we’re going to reach a hump here or that kind of a bulge in the python where you’ll start to see low sodium versions of Impossible. You know what I mean?

Grace Derocha: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: I think it’s just coming.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Or if it’s not gluten free already, they’ll have that stamp.

Grace Derocha: They’re like, lower fat.

Chuck Gaidica: Yes. Yes.

Grace Derocha: Lower sodium. Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: But they have to get us used to it somehow.

Grace Derocha: The lite version.

Chuck Gaidica: Right.

Grace Derocha: That’s real.

Chuck Gaidica: So you’re leaning vegetarian, and I want to ask Grace to help us understand this, I hear all the time and I see studies, and there are studies on everything, right?

Grace Derocha: Yes.

Chuck Gaidica: Too much soy product for males can mess with the hormones and my voice is going to go, you know what I mean?

Grace Derocha: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Is it going to cause us grief? Not because we go out for sushi or we eat at edamame. I don’t mean cause you just goof around. If you’re getting all this soy in your diet, are you concerned as a dietitian for male or females that there’s an issue with too much?

Grace Derocha: This is what I usually tell people. If you have increased risk, especially for breast cancer because we know there’s research proven that there is some… so soy can build extra estrogen in the body, but most soy, especially in this country, is pretty clean.

Chuck Gaidica: If you’re a person eating, drinking soy milk with your cereal and you’re eating soy based burgers, I mean, if you really have reached the tipping point and you’ve gone over.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. If you’re vegan, let’s say-

Chuck Gaidica: Right.

Grace Derocha: … and everything is just soy based. Same thing as I would say with anything is, in moderation.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay.

Grace Derocha: But then also, this is also another thing that I tell people, is going to the doctor regularly, knowing what your levels are so that if you’re making changes to your diet, like, I’m going to be a vegetarian now and I’m… talk to your doctor about it. I’m going to have more soy based things, and then let him or her test you regularly to see if some of those levels are changing, see if…

Chuck Gaidica: For hormonal tests? Yeah. Interesting.

Grace Derocha: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Hormonal levels are changing your body.

Chuck Gaidica: Do you ever think of it? I mean, as a guy, are you ever, and you know, thinking, well, I don’t know, I want to work out, am I going to build muscle or will it have any impact on it?

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. I mean, in terms of just building muscle and stuff like that too, I’ve had an interest in that and seeing if I could make that happen with just a plant based or vegetarian diet. And with tofu, I know tofu has a higher protein content but it has less carbs. So I always hear, you should not have as much carbs when you’re trying to bulk up and stuff like that too. So I think to your point, talking about is how many servings is too much. But to your point, you have to talk to your doctor and kind of figure that out.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. And also, there’s so many other, there’s pea proteins, there’s rice proteins, there’s mung bean. It’s funny because I grew up on mung beans. But there’s different bean protein that you can kind of mix into this process, lentils, black beans, chickpeas.

Chuck Gaidica: I think you’re right. And I think that up until now and maybe in recent years, there were so many other products that if you were to look at them, you’d see soy, right? It’s put in, in salad dressing, soy…

Grace Derocha: Yeah. Soy, yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Oils, whatever it is. You’re seeing soy so much. And I get why, it’s easier to harvest, whatever. But I just wonder if overall, are you seeing any reason that we need to be concerned? I guess moderation is the word that I get, right?

Grace Derocha: Yeah. And like I said, I think it’s really no better, do better. So no, if you are going to start making changes and go more plant based and you know in that process, maybe you don’t have soy milk and you have almond milk. So if you’re going to have more soy protein product, play with that but then also, be in the know, ask your doctor, what are my numbers and levels now, are they in a good range? And then as you go three, six months, three months, six months, a year down the road, have them check again, have them look at it to make sure.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Brandon, is there any product, any kind of food that you’re hoping some guy who’s the mad scientist is going to figure out that hasn’t yet that would appeal to you as a vegetarian? Or do you you lean veggie?

Brandon Burbank: I mean, yes and no. I think Grace and I have may have talked about this, just calling it what it is what it is, whether it’s tofu, tempeh, just having that and just it being the center stage. Because I think it’s really interesting what they are doing in these labs because they’re trying to figure out how to mimic bacon. They’re trying to figure out how to mimic steak and stuff like that.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. They want it to sizzle. They want it to be crunchy. Yeah.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. And I think that’s really interesting. And I know just recently, the company Just released an egg byproduct that cooks just like an egg, but I think they put, what is it? The salts has some kind of sulfur so it mimics that smell. So I think the sky’s the limit in terms of what they’re going to bring out.

Chuck Gaidica: So this isn’t like a beaters, you mean, this is actually a veggie based product that mimics egg?

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Yeah.

Brandon Burbank: Because I think they use mung bean for it.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. And oftentimes, that would be, I would say, I don’t like them as an egg, but to use it as a binder when you’re baking, if you’re baking something vegan or vegetarian, it definitely does that. Or if you were making your Tofurky, Impossible meatloaf and you wanted to bind her, you could use that. I personally don’t like, sorry, I personally don’t like them as eggs. I love mung beans and I…

Chuck Gaidica: But, to your point, if I’m going to make me and grandkids a French toast, maybe that’s the stuff I should use to get it wet and put it in the pan and I’m all set.

Grace Derocha: I love eggs though.

Chuck Gaidica: Well, hey, they have been…

Grace Derocha: We talked about that.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. They have been called the most pure food. I’m not sure that’s actually true, but yeah, there are a lot of people who just think they’re the best.

Grace Derocha: I mean, in your brother’s-

Chuck Gaidica: Oh yeah.

Grace Derocha: … in your brother’s farm, those eggs for sure. But…

Chuck Gaidica: Oh yeah. Those eggs up in Tustin, you can hardly crack them open, right? I mean, the eggs are so hard, the shells, rather. So tofu, tempeh, in a good way, if you lather some of that up, even for the rest of us who are trying to get hooked on this, if you put tofu in my Thai food with coconut milk, I’m just saying.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: It’s just the best. I don’t need any meat at all.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: I love tofu, so.

Chuck Gaidica: And what about nuts? Let’s be nuts for nuts. Are they…

Grace Derocha: I love nuts.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: Talk about a complete food. So nuts have complex carbohydrates, they have fiber, they have protein and they have some heart healthy fat.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: The end.

Chuck Gaidica: Are you adding nuts to your daily diet, like trail mix or anything that you’re doing?

Brandon Burbank: Yeah, I try and do a blend of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almond, that kind of thing, just a quick on the go. Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. I was driving back from, well, my brother’s place up north. It’s one of the reasons I go up north. So I’m coming back and we do the let’s get gas and all that thing and I walk in, it’s hard to find nuts and seeds that don’t have, they have lightly salted, so you either have to go for the trail mix, which has got a ton of sugar and the dried cranberries and raisins.

Grace Derocha: That’s okay.

Chuck Gaidica: I know, I know. It’s just that I wish they would offer the raw version because I think there are enough of us now on the roads where we wouldn’t mind.

Grace Derocha: Yes.

Chuck Gaidica: I mean, they already cost $60 for a little bag of the, you know?

Grace Derocha: That’s how it feels like if you are going to buy them, buy raw, and then you can do what you need to do to them.

Chuck Gaidica: Bag it yourself?

Grace Derocha: Yeah. Or you can, if you want a little bit of salt, but then you control it.

Chuck Gaidica: You’re talking to a guy. There’s no way I’m bagging. I’m not going whole foods before I leave on the trip. It would be a great and brilliant thought. I just thought of it.

Grace Derocha: I’m going to call Susan.

Chuck Gaidica: I just thought of it in the car on my way home. Yeah, what were you going to say?

Brandon Burbank: I was going to say, just in terms of the almond, the raw roasted, I found roasted that’s unsalted and I was just ecstatic about it because it’s one less step.

Grace Derocha: And that’s what I always use whenever I make energy bites, I always use raw.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. All right. And then what about, what is wheat meat? What is that? Do you know?

Grace Derocha: Seitan?

Brandon Burbank: Yeah, seitan.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. So if you have celiac or gluten intolerance, you can not have this because it’s basically gluten removed from carbs and starch.

Chuck Gaidica: It’s like all gluten, right?

Grace Derocha: Yeah. It’s like a big pile of gluten. Because is wheat protein.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay.

Grace Derocha: So when someone has a food allergy, and I know I’ve talked about this before, people are allergic to the protein of whatever.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay.

Grace Derocha: So when people have a gluten intolerance or gluten allergy or they have celiac, they cannot enjoy the protein found in wheat, rye or barley. So what this is, is extracting it and using it. So it’s similar to tofu-ish. I don’t know. It’s not my favorite.

Chuck Gaidica: So we don’t call it satan. We call it seitan?

Grace Derocha: Yeah.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. It’s kind of in its purest form, I guess. It’s like flour almost. And the way you make it, it’s like kneading dough.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay.

Brandon Burbank: And then once you have that dough done, you either, I think you steam it.

Grace Derocha: You wet it. You can steam it. Yeah. It can be like…

Chuck Gaidica: And why would I? What am I m… what’s the end of the? Am I making a dumpling? Am I making a version of mashed potatoes or like?

Grace Derocha: It can be like tofu, so you can…

Chuck Gaidica: Oh, okay. Oh, you can cut it up into portions then?

Brandon Burbank: And you can make it into a sausage or some kind of fake meat, some faux meat.

Chuck Gaidica: Interesting.

Grace Derocha: It’s not my favorite.

Chuck Gaidica: No. Have you had it?

Brandon Burbank: I have. I’ve made it before. Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: What did you do with it?

Grace Derocha: Do you like it?

Brandon Burbank: I made it into sausages and I did it once.

Grace Derocha: It’s a lot of work.

Brandon Burbank: It is a lot of work, but I feel like it’s, again, it’s one of those things where you have to put so much sodium and flavoring into it to make it taste like something.

Grace Derocha: Because otherwise, it doesn’t, it doesn’t taste like anything.

Brandon Burbank: Yeah. Most of these don’t. I mean, tofu doesn’t taste like anything unless you either marinate it a certain way or just add certain seasons to it.

Grace Derocha: Tofu’s one of my favorite things. I put it in our smoothies as a protein kick.

Brandon Burbank: Nice.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh, interesting.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. And no one knows.

Brandon Burbank: Like the silken?

Grace Derocha: Sorry, Tommy and Cleo.

Chuck Gaidica: Well, this is a good, it’s even more than a broad brush. It’s really a good education about this stuff that’s coming at us kind of like a freight train. I mean, it’s really moving. Everywhere you go now, you’re seeing it on signs at fast food restaurants. So. Well, Brandon Burbank, it’s good to get the producer in here. Be nice to him.

Grace Derocha: I know, right?

Chuck Gaidica: Because he’s the one who can just go, and the show ends.

Grace Derocha: Well, and he can make a sound terrible or wonderful.

Chuck Gaidica: Why would he? No.

Grace Derocha: No.

Chuck Gaidica: Brandon, it’s good to have you on this side of the glass.

Brandon Burbank: Thank you.

Grace Derocha: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. What a pleasure. And Grace, always nice to hang out with you and learn… you know? Grace has forgotten more about this stuff than we know. It’s just good to have her here. If you like our podcast, we want to encourage you to keep listening. Go back and listen to some of the other great episodes we have. You can check it out. A Healthier Michigan Podcast is brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Jump online. You can check us out at You can leave reviews on iTunes or Stitcher. You can also get new episodes for your smartphone, tablet. If you’re out there, you’re going for a jog, you’re walking, you can listen to episodes because you can catch a lot of wisdom from so many of the experts we’ve had. Be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Take care of yourself.