More people are looking for healthier, greener and more ethical alternatives to meat. With a portion of the population living a vegan lifestyle, more and more people are opting to eat a plant-based diet. However, as these plant-based alternatives to meat such as the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat healthy by way of nutrition? Are they considered nutritious substitutes for real meat? Do they provide more or less value by way of nutrition? After all, even if these plant-based meats taste the same, are they similarly good for you?
Plant-based meat is high in fibre, folate and iron which makes it a good source of nutrients. However, though they contain helpful doses of some nutrients, they lack certain nutrients such as protein, zinc and vitamin B-12. Hence, in some ways, making the switch from real meat to plant-based meat can be healthy, though if you are not careful about deficiencies, it could be detrimental to health.
Everyone’s nutrition requirements are different. Different people have varied health goals and what you eat should be based on the goals that you have for yourself. For instance, if you look to meat as a source of protein, replacing real meat with plant-based meat won’t provide the same nutritional value.
Further to this, the nutrient content of all plant-based meats vary. This means you have to always check the product label to ensure what you are consuming is what you are looking to achieve by way of nutrition. For instance, if you are watching your saturated fat intake to improve heart health, it is important that you check the label for low saturated fat content. Some plant-based meats contain as much saturated fat as ground beef, making it unhealthy for those who are looking to control their saturated fat intake.
Are Plant-Based Meats Healthy?
In the grand picture of everything, we are led to believe that plant-based meats are actually healthy for you. According to research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, it was found that plant-based meat contains high doses of fibre, folate and iron while simultaneously containing less saturated fat than ground beef, making it a healthy option.
That being the case, you really have to check the product description on the label to understand the nutrient profile of each product. Though most products have a low saturated fat content, some products contain as much saturated fat as ground beef.
Further to this, the fact that these products don’t usually contain vitamin B-12 in the same amounts as real meat, makes it another worrying reality. Meat, dairy and eggs are considered the most popular sources of vitamin B-12. A deficiency in vitamin B-12 could lead to serious health issues such as pernicious anaemia.
Though there are certain sources of vitamin B-12 on a plant-based diet, when switching from regular meat to plant-based meat, you have to be extra careful of your vitamin B-12 intake. This is because plant-based meat does not contain the same levels of vitamin B-12 as regular meat. Some have vitamin B-12 added to them, while other products don’t.
Plant-based meat also does not contain the same levels of protein as regular meat. This could lead to protein deficiency in the body which could lead to conditions such as nutritional anaemia. Protein malnutrition stimulates the increased cytokines production with the induction of anaemia, coupled with inflammation and immunodeficiency.
Hence, when answering the question with regards to whether plant-based meats are healthy, you have to take into consideration the nutrient deficiencies it could be placing you in. Generally, so long as you can source these deficient nutrients from other sources, switching to plant-based meats can be a healthy option.
Plant-based meat products can be loaded with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that bring with them a host of health benefits. They are great for weight management, people with diabetes and the microbiome. These plant-based meats can also work to prevent major issues such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Why Plant-Based Meat is Bad for You?
Plant-based meat contains fillers and added sodium which can be unhealthy for the body. Some plant-based meats may also be high in saturated fats which can lead to cardiovascular complications.
Though plant-based meats are considered generally good for cardiovascular health, it is the saturated fat content of these foods that need to be considered. While some products are low in saturated fat content, some products are high, making it essential that you read the label before consumption to ensure that you aren’t consuming something that is damaging the body.
Plant-based meat also does not contain the same levels of protein and vitamin B-12 as regular meat. This can lead to a deficiency if not careful which could bring with it conditions such as anaemia. There is a greater chance of lower red blood cell count in those who consume a plant-based diet and this is due to the fact that it is difficult to source both protein and vitamin B-12 on a plant-based diet.
Most plant-based meats are not generally considered bad for you. However, you have to check the product for fillers, added sodium and saturated fat content. Further to this, those products that have added vitamin B-12 is generally considered the better option, however, all products do not have added vitamin B-12 in them.
Benefits of Plant-Based Meats
Plant-based meats are lower in calories in comparison to regular meat, which could mean they contain more protein in comparison to saturated fat. This can help you lower the risk of cardiovascular issues and bring about a healthier heart.
Plant-based meat is also loaded with fibre which can be great for your digestive health. The fibre content will enable better regulation of gut health, allowing for a healthier digestive tract. It is the fibre content of these plant-based meats that make them a valuable addition to the diet. The fibre will work to keep you feeling full for a longer period of time and the fact that plant-based meats are lower in calories make them a valuable addition to the diet of those trying to lose weight.
A plant-based diet has also been linked to better sleep. Plants contain nutrients that aid better sleep and promote good quality sleep. Opting for plant-based meat as opposed to real meat can not only lead to better quality of sleep but also a better sleep cycle.
A plant-based diet can also work to better maintain blood sugar levels. This is especially important for those who suffer from diabetes. Plant-based foods including plant-based meat tend to be high in fibre which allows for the slow absorption of sugars in the bloodstream. This helps to better regulate cortisol levels which help to relieve stress and control hunger. While real meat works to raise blood sugar levels, plant-based meat will help you better control blood sugar levels.
When it comes to cholesterol, you know real meat is a culprit. Real meat has been linked to high cholesterol levels for many years. Replacing real meat with plant-based meat will help you better control cholesterol levels, lowering them if high and maintaining your body in optimum health.
Apart from the host of health benefits they bring to the table, plant-based meats are cruelty-free, which makes them the more ethical choice. Choosing plant-based meat helps to reduce animal suffering and you will no longer be responsible for the suffering of innocent animals around the world. You would be helping to shift the global economy away from the meat industry and will help reduce the demand for animal suffering.
Plant-based meats are also great for the environment. Plants require less clean water to flourish in comparison to animals and often require less space to grow in. Hence, by shifting the market to plant-based meats, not only are we conserving a lot of water, but we are saving space for more important things like housing. Further to this, plant-based meats are considered better for climate change and often work to reduce atmospheric carbon levels as opposed to the meat industry which is responsible for a great chunk of atmospheric carbon content.
All in all, the benefits of eating plant-based meats are many. Just so long as you are careful about the product you choose to consume and ensure that the nutritional value is maintained, plant-based meats could very well be food of the future.
Is Plant-Based Meat Healthier Than Real Meat?
Most plant-based meats are lower in saturated fat in comparison to regular meat, which makes them the healthier option. They are also lower in calories which means you can consume more without gaining weight.
The ingredients in plant-based meats contain a host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can work to better regulate cardiovascular health. The fibre in plant-based meats also works to better regulate blood sugar levels making them a great substitute for real meat for those who suffer from diabetes.
Plant-based meat also contains less cholesterol in comparison to regular meat which means you are less likely to experience conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cardiovascular issues.
These benefits make plant-based meat a considered healthier option than regular meat. However, plant-based meat does contain less protein and vitamin B-12 than regular meat. These nutrients are essential to prevent conditions such as anaemia. Hence, though plant-based meat is generally considered the healthier option to real meat, they do come with shortcomings.
When choosing a plant-based meat product, if you are able to find a product that is relatively high in protein, low in saturated fat and has added vitamin B-12, this product would most certainly be a healthier option than real meat. Not only will it provide the necessary nutrients to make it nutritionally similar to real meat, but it also will not carry the negatives attributes of real meat such as cholesterol and high saturated fat.
What are the Dangers of Plant-Based Meat
Though plant-based meats are generally considered a healthy option, some products do come with hidden dangers. Certain plant-based meats contain soy and pea protein which can be a cause for concern for those who suffer from food allergies. These plant proteins can also lead to digestive issues and can even can autoimmune diseases.
Plant-based meats may also contain oxidised plant oils such as sunflower oil and canola oil that are high in inflammatory polyunsaturated fats. Further to this, they may also contain additives such as methylcellulose, yeast extract, modified starch, natural flavours, refined coconut oil and cultured dextrose. These additives are found in ultra-processed foods and are derived in a laboratory through industrial manipulation.
Plant-based meats also contain ingredients that have not been historically consumed by humans such as genetically engineered soy leghemoglobin, which lacks adequate safety studies and could be a potential for health risks in the long run for consumers.
Soy, though a great source of protein and a component in many plant-based meats can have many harmful health effects. This is because soy contains a vast number of anti-nutrients that can lead to various health issues such as immunologic reactions, hormone imbalances and digestive disorders.
Anti-nutrients are also found in other legumes, grains and seeds which are often components of plant-based meats.
Though many people don’t have food allergies towards pea protein and soy, they may start to develop food sensitivity that could lead to an acute immune system reaction. This can lead to a host of health complications such as skin issues, neurological conditions, digestive disorders, autoimmune diseases and obesity.
These plant-based meats are often produced in high heat and the isolation of protein from soybean and peas poses unique problems. The isolation of proteins from whole foods can cause the generation of compounds that are not naturally found in food. This could trigger immune system reactions and can also lead to inflammation.
Though the dangers of plant-based meats are often sidestepped, they are very much a real thing. We have placed plant-based meats to a health standard above meat, however, the real implications of a long-term diet based on plant-based meat are yet to be properly understood.
Though surely plant-based meats may be considered the food of the future, only time will tell if these hidden dangers of plant-based meats pose real threats to the wellbeing of humans or whether humans will adapt to the change and welcome plant-based meats.
How Expensive is Plant-Based Meat?
Though the prices of plant-based meats vary based on company and product, according to Vox, the average price for plant-based meats in the U.S. start at around $9.87 per pound. This is relatively higher in comparison to ground beef which is placed at an average of $6.10 per pound.
With plant-based meats being the more expensive option, when are we likely to see the prices of plant-based meats become lower than real meat? Experts say that plant-based meats could take anywhere between 5 to 20 years to become cheaper than real meat.
Plant-based meat has to undergo serious work in production which requires extensive machinery. Not just that, they have to mimic the taste and smell of real meat which makes the whole process a rather expensive endeavour. However, with more and more competition in the market for plant-based meats and with the increasing number of suppliers in the industry, plant-based meats are sure to become more affordable over the years.
With the prices being as high as they are, they are considered a premium alternative for meat which many people around the world cannot afford. That being the case, with the possibility of producing large quantities at a time, plant-based meat has been known to be the cure for world hunger and only time will tell if prices remain higher than meat or become more affordable.
Do Plant-Based Meats go Bad?
Much like any food, plant-based meats have an expiry date. They go bad within 3 days after opening, even if they are refrigerated.
Though an unopened package of plant-based burgers can stay fresh for about 10 days in the fridge, once opened, they will only last a few days in the fridge. That being the case, frozen plant-based burgers can stay good for up to 273 days.
Plant-based meats are actually a frozen food that is stored in low temperatures to prevent them from going bad. They are made of plants which makes them more prone to going bad, faster in comparison to real meat.
Plant-based meats could very well be the food for the future. With more and more people coming to realise the ethics of eating animal-based food, more people are opting for a cruelty-free model of dining, opting for either a vegan or vegetarian diet. Many such people have been looking at plant-based meats with excitement due to the advances in science which are making it possible to mimic the taste and smell of meat in a more ethical and eco-friendly means.
Oftentimes, it is the health factor that sways many people to consuming plant-based meats. Don’t get us wrong, in the grand picture of everything, plant-based meats are considered better for animals, better for the environment and better for health. However, when it comes to health, you have to be careful to pick products that contain the nutritional value that you need (such as added vitamin B-12).
Though there may be hidden dangers of consuming plant-based meat, more and more studies are being conducted each day to better understand the implications of plant-based meats on humans. So far, the science is clear, plant-based meats contain nutrients that are considered beneficial for health and contain less of the stuff that is considered bad for humans.
No laboratory food may ever have no hidden dangers. However, when it comes to the hidden dangers of plant-based meats, the benefits usually trump them.
Hence, the verdict as to whether plant-based meats are good for you. Yes, plant-based meats are healthy, but you should always read the product label to ensure that you are getting a product low in added sodium, fillers and saturated fat and contains helpful amounts of vitamin B-12 and protein to prevent deficiency.
We hope you found this article useful and that reading this word to word has helped you better understand the health implications of plant-based meats. Plant-based meats are great for the environment and are most certainly the more ethical option, so only time will tell if they become to be the food of the future.