Whole Foods CEO Says Plant-Based Meats Aren't Healthy

Plant-based meats have certainly taken off. A couple of brands have even found their way into mainstream fast-food restaurants — Burger King recently debuted its Impossible Whopper from Impossible Foods, while KFC is dipping their toes into Beyond Meat territory with Beyond Fried Chicken. However, there is some unexpected naysaying from a surprising player in the healthy-foods industry. Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO, John Mackey, says that while plant-based meats are good for the environment, they're actually not all that good for your health (via CNBC).

Say what?

Whole Foods has been heavily involved in Beyond Meat from its early days as a start-up in 2013 when the chain started selling vegan "chicken" strips. In the last few years, the market has exploded as the products are finding their way into more and more restaurants and grocery stores. So it's shocking that the CEO for a company that caters to people with different diets, including vegetarians and vegans, would actually come out against one of the more popular type of products for those who don't eat meat.

For his part, Mackey — who has been vegan for over two decades — says that while these products are becoming more and more commonplace, they're actually chock full of highly-processed ingredients and not all that great for you. "I don't think eating highly processed foods is healthy," Mackey says. "I think people thrive on eating whole foods. As for health, I will not endorse that, and that is about as big of criticism that I will do in public."

A dietitian interviewed by CNBC agrees that these meat substitutes shouldn't be thought of as being "healthy," as they have the same amount of sodium and saturated fats as traditional burgers that are made from beef. 

Mackey admits that there are benefits from the plant-based meat trend, though, as producing it has much less of an impact on the environment, including using less water, land, and energy, and it also results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional beef products. Also, it can help people wean away from meat products in general as it can be a great tool to use during the transition from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian or vegan one.