Best and Worst Plant-Based Diet - Ad Hoc with a Doc

A lot of people turn to a plant-based diet on the direction of their physician. However, 'plant-based' doesn't always mean what you think it does.

On this edition of 'Ad Hoc with a Doc,' Dr. Rubin interviews the founder of Local Alternative, Jonathan Netzky. Local Alternative is an Arizona based company dedicated to making plant-pure options available to as many people as possible.

Find out how you can understand what you're really eating, what marketing schemes you need to look out for, and why a 'heavily processed plant-based diet' is the worst diet out there.



Rubin:  Hi, I’m Dr. Dan Rubin with Ad Hoc with a Doc.  Today we're going to be talking about plant-based diets, and specifically about plant pure, plant-based proteins.  I've known Mr. Jonathan Netzky for about 30 years, maybe even more.  We've known each other since college.

You're in Flagstaff, Arizona, you have a company, Local Alternative, and you've been developing and creating and making culinary or plant-pure proteins for culinary use for years now.

Netzky:  Yeah, for probably almost 10 years.  Which really came to be from the concept of local alternative, and how do we use local resources to make products that are usable in more mass foodservice.  So, our products evolved from use in a competition where we won ‘best veggie burger’ and became the veggie burger in a foodservice arena up at the Diablo Burger in Flagstaff, six-seven years ago.  To being the veggie burger you know use throughout all the restaurants in the Grand Canyon today and really for us, it's been the learning experience of working with these avenues to the consumer to learn what the consumers really wanted over time and continuously innovate our products to meet that demand

Rubin:  Sourcing locally, why is that important to you in your company?

Netzky:  It solves for everything quite frankly.  When people look at a health concern, local gives me access to whole fresh food from farms that I can take directly off the farm –

Rubin:  And you know who grew them?

Netzky:  I know who grew them, I know their practices; my agreement with them isn't whether it has to be USDA certified organic, it’s that I can walk on your farm at any point in time and see what you're doing.  

Rubin:  Okay.

Netzky:  Handshake, that's local, right?  You know, that's the farmer.  I think the biggest challenge, and what I hope that we can accomplish through conversation, is to resolve some of the confusion around food.

Rubin:  Okay.

Netzky:  And our realities with food today are that there are so many avenues to market directly to us, that everything is being marketed to us, really, in most cases, for the benefit of the person selling it not for the benefit of the person who's going to consume it.

Rubin:  I’d say a lot of people would agree with that.

everything is being marketed to us, really, in most cases, for the benefit of the person selling it not for the benefit of the person who’s going to consume it
— Jonathan Netzky, Local Alternative

Netzky:  Right? And so, what I've always hoped to do is to be able to empower people to make good decisions on their own behalf.  We learned that products of quality, that somebody seeking a holistic view on a plant-based diet just really weren't available; and especially in a large-scale foodservice realm where we initially approached the market to learn, but even in retail.  Today, more than ever, you know, we've been in this since before the fake meat craze went on recently.

Rubin:  Okay.

Netzky:  But more important than the idea that it's converted people potentially away from beef or otherwise what's happened is a billion dollars has gone into direct marketing plant-based proteins that resemble meats.  So this goes back again to when we listened to the industry-leading chefs we've been working with and we listen to the consumers, for us, we never heard a consumer or a chef say ‘I want you to take the vegetables and make them exactly like meat.’  It's kind of weird because what – 

Rubin:  I wouldn't want that…

Netzky:  Well right, and when we walked into the people that have made choices for, you know, health concerns predominantly, or for sustainability concerns, around why they're eating plant-based; it's so crazy that the most heavily processed foods are what is ultimately available to people who are seeking a higher level of pure food. 

it’s so crazy that the most heavily processed foods are what is ultimately available to people who are seeking a higher level of pure food. 
— Jonathan Netzky, Local Alternative

Rubin:  Interesting, more industrial processing?  And are these –

Netzky:  At the ingredient level, right, that's the core; is that a soybean was taken and turned into soy fiber, soy oil, soy protein isolate somewhere in the world, shipped in those constituent parts to other places in the world, remanufactured…when was it a soybean and where did it come from, right?

Rubin:  I don’t even know, I mean from a medical perspective, I'm not sure that the body knows how to interpret that as a nutrient; or the signaling cascades that…I mean, who knows in the future what that's going to do, it’s foreign to the body, they’re so highly processed.

Netzky:  There's some great research out there there's even to quantities of specific protein isolates that have induced radical cell growth in repeated studies.

The type of diet that was shown to be associated with the biggest health detriment, that means the worst for you, cardiovascular wise, obesity wise, diabetes…is the highly processed plant-based diet. 
— Dan Rubin. ND. FABNO, Naturopathic Specialists. LLC

Rubin:  The type of diet that was shown to be associated with the biggest health detriment, that means the worst for you, cardiovascular wise, obesity wise, diabetes…is the highly processed plant-based diet.  You've seen that work?

Netzky:  I have.

Rubin:  What do you think about that?

Netzky:  You know, it's incredibly intriguing because of two important factors.  One, this is a study that was done thirty years ago and again just over the last few years and the data came out about six months ago and validated the same thing and there's this giant misconception out there that animal foods and animal proteins are worse for you than eating something that's masquerading to be plant-based but is really just heavily, heavily processed foods, sugars carbs things convert sugar.  So, what it shows is that diet is…the heavily processed is the worst, an animal-based whole food diet is better than that, against the conditions you described, and a whole food plant-based diet promotes health to the greatest degree, has the greatest positive impact.

Rubin:  Very interesting, so, we had talked a little bit about it before, but let's get back to heavily processed plant-based.  These, when I look at the product packages, these are made of ingredients…but I remember the old ice cream commercial from when we were kids, where the kid was trying to read the ingredients on one type of ice cream – “mono glit, mono glue…” you know and then the friends told him what it was but then the brand that was being marketed had maybe three ingredients that anybody could read, and they were all whole food-based.  So, that was, I don't know, 30 years ago or so, maybe 40 years ago at this time and here we are again talking about ingredients.  One of those ingredients I've read is methyl cellulose.  I know what methane is, it's an organic compound, I know what cellulose is, I mean cellulose is plant fiber it's you know it's something we don't have, you know, we don't have cellulose in our cells, we can't really digest cellulose.  In order to digest these guys, we have to chew it, that's how we break open cell walls. What the heck is methyl cellulose doing in some foods that are called ‘food?’

Netzky:  It's interesting because, you know, methyl cellulose is actually a potent laxative.

Rubin:  Yes, okay.

Netzky:  And my guess is that it's in the food for two reasons: one because there's no fiber. When you've removed the protein from the food, the fiber took off, right?  When you're just using a fat and you're congealing it, there's no fiber so it's used in place of the fiber so that, well, the food can get through us right or the item I guess it is.

Rubin:  Helps get it out.

Netzky:  Right, and also, it has some properties in these fake foods these replicant-type foods to hold them together, bind them, emulsify– 

Rubin:  So it's in the shape of a patty so it just doesn't – 

Netzky:  Doesn’t just fall apart – 

Rubin:  So you can utilize it in a recipe.

Netzky: Right, I mean if you think about it, you've taken a powder and a couple of liquids or gelatins and fat and somehow made a shape out of them.

Rubin:  So, these plant-based foods on the market that are highly processed through industrial means that are congealed, that are, you know, the food is taken apart and then some parts are put back in…it reminds me of what we used to be told about white bread. That they distill it and then they put vitamins back in, and you know, some people would just scratch their head and be like, ‘well why didn’t they just keep them in there in the first place?’ 

Netzky:  You know, to me, there's a reality that there's a problem, and that is that people are getting information from marketing sources selling them things like food that our existence is based on, and they don't have the knowledge, and they don't have the ability to vet all the information that's coming through the sources that we use today you know essentially the internet right?  And so, without the ability to figure out what the truth is, you've got to really find a simple principle to operate on, and for me, personally, it's the idea of eating whole food.  Right? And I very limited meat, I eat mostly plants, all whole foods, and not too much.  You know, Michael Pollan said it best, and I think it was exactly that: eat mostly plants or no…eat whole foods, mostly plants, not too much.  And so, I think that's really the key concept to get across, is that there's a problem, and that is, getting to the information…which is then followed up by how do you access the products that meet those values? 

Second is:  what are the barriers to creating them?  The industry is using things like methyl cellulose, these other heavily processed protein isolates that we've been talking about to create products that are designed to deceive you to believe you're eating something different than you are.  Kind of the first point to stay away from…why do you want to be deceived on your plate?  The second point is from a save-the-world perspective; we're actually telling people that you should maintain your appetite for beef through something that isn't beef…for what amount of time?  How is that gonna – eventually they're still gonna want to eat beef when they have a chance, right?  I don't understand how that solves for that problem.  So, there are barriers out there to say, ‘Well how do you get consumers to buy it, and how do you manufacture it?’  We solved for the manufacturing of local fresh food in small batches with plant-purity that's the solution, whole foods are the solution.  

So, you’ve got a problem, you’ve got a barrier, and you’ve got a solution.  The solution is a completely different system, and that's why we go direct to foodservice and we go direct to consumer, because if we involve the distributors and we involve the grocery stores, we can't get the value to the consumer; it just dilutes the costs of the product so much that you just can't get it to them.

Rubin:  I think it's been great to discuss the differences in the whole food ingredients versus heavily processed ingredients and I'd love to follow this up sometime and you know talk about see where the industry is maybe in a year or so and see what's been happening.  So, I really thank you for taking the time to come and talk about this.

Netzky:  Thank you, I appreciate it.