Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on chicken and arsenic. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For more context, check out my associated blog post, Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk.

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  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on chicken and arsenic. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • alfunnnn

    Hi Dr. Greger,

    I definitely can see how veggie chicken can be healthier than real chicken in terms of those nutrients.

    I have a question, however, regarding the processing of veggie chicken. Is it possible that the processing of veggie chicken could be more harmful in terms of salt and other additives?

    • Laurie K.

      Hi alfunnnn, good question, you are clearly aware of the fact that processed foods are detrimental to your health because they contain so many harmful additives. In fact, this video; http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/is-potassium-sorbate-bad-for-you/ goes into more detail about one of the more common preservative used in food manufacturing. In terms of processing veggie chicken, sodium may be the ingredient you want to be sure not to eat in excess. Depending on the brand, most veggie chicken will contain about 25% of our daily sodium per serving. Many people have concerns about their sodium intake, but it’s an electrolyte that’s just important as calcium and potassium and of course OVER consumption of any of these can be harmful. If you are truly eating a diet that’s based on a wide variety of whole plant foods, then eating processed veggie chicken occasionally is perfectly fine. You will also be getting enough protein from a widely varied, whole plant food diet, so no need to worry about how much protein you get each day. The problem however, is that most people exist entirely on processed foods, with the exception of low nutrient vegetables like corn or potatoes, or they have a salad made from other low nutrient veggies, such as romaine or iceberg lettuce and don’t get nearly the proper amount of any vital nutrients, see for example http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/nations-diet-in-crisis. I can also assure you that eating animals, and animal products have far more dangers associated with their consumption than you may even be aware of, namely, anabolic steroids, please see: http;//nutritionfacts.org/videos/anabolic-steroids-in-meat/ Also, a lot of people think that by avoiding chicken and red meat they are fine, as long as they are only eating fish. This is also very dangerous, since so many fish contain many contaminants like mercury: http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/amalgam-fillings-vs-canned-tuna/. This information was in no way intended to frighten you, but rather help you to become more knowledgeable about what foods you should be avoiding, as well as which to include on a daily basis. All of the Nutritionfacts.Org videos are a wonderful source of information to help you become more healthy! In closing, I’ll recommend one more, http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/slowing-the-growth-of-cancer-3/ To your good health!

  • wickedchicken

    Is this a soy-based or mycoprotein-based fake chicken???? I don’t eat any soy, but I do eat some mycoprotein(QUORN). Would love your opinion on it.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Great question wickedchicken (and true to your namesake :). Gardein (from “garden + protein”) is a soy and grain (wheat, amaranth, millet, quinoa)-based product. Quorn is more like (though technically not) mushroom based. Unlike Gardein, Quorn has a little saturated fat and cholesterol (has some egg and milk products mixed in). Quorn has more sodium, less protein, and comparable fiber, but regardless, both are superior to chicken for a variety of reasons (e.g., see my 40 videos on chicken).

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Short and Sweet. Love the chick in a bun!

  • Nicole Furlan

    My husband has gotten to a wonderful place where he is now eating nearly 100% vegan about 80% of the time (he still eats meat and animal products when we dine out and buys cheese to have at home). Coming from eating lots of meat (including lots of highly processed meats) and cream/milk, this is an AMAZING accomplishment and I couldn’t be more proud. I recently have transitioned to a more whole foods plant based diet, but he missed the veggie meats, and explained to me that he didn’t think he would ever be able to move away from them. In my mind, I know that eating veggie meats most days MUST be better then eating animal meat (as long as we watch sodium intake) – but can you verify that this is in fact true, and okay for him to be doing?

    • Thea

      Nicole: I’m not a doctor or expert, but I have some thoughts for you about the situation.

      First, I think it is great that you acknowledge how far your husband has come. I understand that what your husband has accomplished so far is huge for him. Even if your husband has a ways to go before he is really eating healthy, I would say that your husband is on a great path. He has had great success, even if he is far from the end of the journey.

      As you say, eating the veggie meats is not all that healthy if it is a regular part of his diet. I would agree with you that veggie meats are better than eating animal meat, but I don’t think we really know how much better it is. The veggie meats are cholesterol-free, relatively low in saturated fat, free of trans-fat, may contain that extremely important fiber (meat has zero fiber), may be less calorie-dense, and are generally free of dangerous contaminants and the worst of the pesticides, etc. BUT there is often a lot of the following in veggie meats: oils, maybe isolated soy protein (which is not healthy – and which is not the same as traditional soy products), other non-whole/highly processed foods, and high sodium. So, how much better are veggie meats? I don’t know, and I doubt anyone can really quantify it.

      Here’s the perspective that I think is helpful: Your husband has come *so* far already. There is no reason to believe that he really will be stuck where he is now health-wise for the rest of his life–no matter what he says now. I have a close family relative who told me for years that he would “never” (his exact word many times) go vegetarian, let alone vegan. And he never had a single vegan meal as far as I know. Until one day he learned just enough information about the health of a vegan diet, and got just enough of a health scare, that he went vegan. The point is: People change over time. Your husband may grow too.

      Here’s what I think is helpful in dealing with a situation like this:
      1) keep in mind yourself that there is only so much you can do. If you push your husband too hard, it will backfire.

      2) very, low-key, low-frequency information sharing seems to work well. As does light-hearted back rub bribes available while watching certain NutritionFacts videos. :-)

      3) when I hear statements like, “…he missed the veggie meats…” I remember how I felt many years ago when I transitioned from SAD to a vegetarian diet. It was a psychological change that had to happen in order for me to be able to enjoy a meat-free meal and feel emotionally satisfied. Your husband may need more time before he can get to that mental place. But one way to keep down the path is to keep exposing him to such delicious and satisfying meals that are free of all animal products and the veggie meats (or where the veggie meats play a teeny, tiny role). Maybe he’s not 100% ready now, but a meal here, a meal there, while seeing videos over time such as Earthlings, Cowspiracy, and Forks Over Knives can do a lot to help someone to get over that psychological hurdle.

      4) consider practicing the “not yet” approach. Instead of saying, “I will never eat X way.” , try getting your husband to say and think to himself instead: “I am not eating X way yet.” It changes thinking at a fundamental level. ‘Not yet’ thinking acknowledges the current situation, does not put any pressure to change, but also leaves a door open for future change. I use this approach myself for all sort of areas I would like to improve on, but am not ready to make a change just now.

      I would also suggest that the next concrete step you could take as a family would be to have 100% vegan food in the house, even if eating out still needs to be an exception. While eating vegan 80% of the time is a start, eating SAD 20% of the time is a lot of SAD in my opinion. That’s 1 out of 5 meals that are SAD. And cheese is so calorie-dense and contaminant-dense and cholesterol-dense, etc, that it doesn’t take a lot of the stuff to really take down the health value of a meal. (In my opinion.) Dr. McDougall (I think it was him) describes dairy as “liquid meat”, because of it’s impact on health. Cheese is very concentrated dairy. Health wise (or ethics wise), dairy is no better for your husband than if he were just eating meat. So, as addictive as I (personally) know that cheese is, your husband would give his health a big boost (in my lay-person’s opinion) if he could give it up – at least starting at home. Just going by what you wrote in your post, the cheese eating would concern me far more at this point than eating the veggie meats–especially if the veggie meats are just part (say condiment amount) of a more whole plant food meal.

      Just some ideas for you. I hope that helps.

      • Nicole Furlan

        Thank you SO MUCH for your amazing response, Thea! I will definitely continue to edge my husband toward more plant-based and less processed meals. The only problem is – I know you suggested that I try to get him to watch documentaries – but he REFUSES. I asked him to watch the Gary Yourofsky speech a while back, and he would not. He said “I’m not ready for that yet” and he said he knew that if he watched it he would never want to eat meat again. So like you said, at least he has the “not yet” frame of mind, but it’s also taken us ~5 years to get to the point where I don’t have to cook meat for him at home anymore (something he actually brought up himself). I wish there was a way to get him to watch these documentaries because he’s a good man and I know it would change his eating overnight.

        Also, his brother died of a brain tumor the day before his 20th birthday, so he thinks no matter what you do, you could get sick, “so why even try to eat healthy?” – it’s very difficult to get him to care about eating whole foods plant based when he’s thinking that way. Another way the documentaries would help!

        • Thea

          Nicole: I think you and your husband are in a common place: a) one spouse in, the other not so much, b) the other spouse having all sorts of justifications, especially because he/she already knows deep down he/she is doing wrong… I’ll keep my fingers crossed for both of you.

          I did have one comment that I thought might help your husband with his thinking of, “…brother died of a brain tumor the day before his 20th birthday, so he
          thinks no matter what you do, you could get sick, “so why even try to
          eat healthy?””
          I imagine that the brother is a sensitive/emotional subject. So, I would want to be careful how I said anything. But if this topic ever came up again naturally, you might try something like this as a reply,

          “We know that about 20% of the people who get lung cancer do not smoke. But you would never say, ‘My neighbor got lunch cancer and never smoked, so why refrain from smoking?’ You would never say that, because you know that by not smoking, you *dramatically* lower your risk of getting lung cancer. Smoking is just not worth it. Eating healthy is the same thing. You can *dramatically* lower your risk of getting various cancers, heart disease, stroke and SO much more. It is not a guarantee, but it improves our chances of living healthy and happy lives. And to top it all off, we still get really great food. It’s a win-win-win.”

          I think that’s an argument you could have in your back pocket that might help in the future. Good luck.

          • Nicole Furlan

            I totally agree Thea! Thank you for that input. He actually *would* say that: “My neighbor got lung cancer and never smoked, so why refrain from smoking?” – It’s a crazy way to think. I don’t understand it! I think part of it is simply residual depression and anger from his brother passing away so young. I am definitely going to try harder at getting him to realize how that way of thinking is detrimental to health. Thank you so much! :)

          • http://SmartDreams.net Gayle Delaney PhD

            Nicole, here is a small idea that perhaps you could try re: getting your husband to watch Forks Over Knives.

            Just have the film playing one day when he comes home or into the room. You could be taking notes because of your interest in getting the facts straight. He can stay and watch what is already playing if he wants. OR— Go to a friend’s house where she or he (preferably He) is showing the film for 1-2 friends. Your husband could come or not. When you come home (if he has not attended the screening) wait until he asks you about the gathering or the film. Be brief in your answers. You know your husband, might either of these plans work? Worth trying? Might they backfire? Do they give you any other ideas? Good luck.

            I find that the REFUSAL of my beloved friends to even watch one 45-min video ( Dr. Greger’s Uprooting the ? Causes of Death) to be so very unfortunate. Discouraging. Frustrating. As Thea says, we can only do so much! I am thinking about this in terms of things I know about, Romantic and sexual seduction. Some things work almost all the time with men. Can I isolate the dynamics and help people use them in the realm of keeping the people we love healthy?

          • Nicole Furlan

            That’s a fantastic idea Gayle! I agree that it’s very frustrating that people choose ignorance in order to avoid changing their diets. I am definitely going to have Forks Over Knives playing one night when he comes home! Thank you!!!