Food for Thought

For decades public health officials and the medical profession have warned Americans that our unhealthy eating habits have contributed to an epidemic of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, among other ill-effects, in our country.

The irony of 21st century America is that our wealth does not equal good health. We eat foods that are more expensive to produce, but that are bad for us.

By contrast, the so-called Mediterranean diet, which consists of natural, unprocessed foods, and relies less on meat as a source of protein, has been shown to provide longer and healthier lives for those, regardless of their nationality, who adhere to it, even in the poorest countries of the world.

The hamburger, more than any other single food item, has come to epitomize the American diet.  The opening of McDonald’s restaurants in foreign countries have been a cause celebre, even in France, the supposed capital of haute cuisine.

So it was with quite a degree of shock to Americans when Burger King launched its Impossible Burger, a plant-based “burger,” a few months ago.

However, the seeming absurdity of a hamburger-oriented, fast-food chain offering its customers a plant-based “burger” has given way to a new reality with the announcement this past week by the head of Burger King that the Impossible Burger has become the chain’s most successful new product launch in many years.

The Impossible Burger is not your hippy-dippy grandparents’ veggie burger. In our home we did a blind taste test, serving real burgers and the Impossible Burger (which we had bought in a grocery store) side-by-side without telling the unwitting participants that one-half (we cut the burgers in two) of what they were eating was not meat.

Not only could they not tell the difference between them (they were unaware that they were eating two different products), but they actually preferred the half that was the Impossible Burger.

Millennials are leading the way in this dietary revolution, but so too are the Baby Boomers, whose decades of bad eating have caught up with us and who must make the shift away from red meat as a staple of our diet to preserve what health we have left.

Not only are plant-based burgers good for us on an individual basis, but by reducing the production of meat, we are benefiting the environment. The Green New Deal put forward by Senator Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez recognizes that animal agricultural production is a huge contributor to climate change.

Just as Americans reduced their consumption of cigarettes in the decades that followed the Surgeon General’s warning in 1964 about the ill-effects of smoking, so too, a new generation of Americans is forwarding a healthier lifestyle in terms of our food choices.

If it is true that we are what we eat, this is a change that has been a long time coming.

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