As more people are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact, plant-based meat has become an increasingly popular option. After all, livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
But what about the health benefits? Is plant-based meat healthier than its animal-based counterpart?
Below, we’ll take a deep dive into the pros and cons of plant-based meat so you can make an informed decision that fits with your lifestyle and values. By exploring the research and weighing up both sides of the argument, you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether switching to vegan or vegetarian options is right for you.
What is plant-based meat?
Plant-based meat is a type of food that looks, tastes and cooks like animal-based meat. However, it’s made from plant sources such as beans, peas, soy, lentils, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and wheat.
And how is plant-based meat made?
The process of making plant-based meat starts with selecting the plants appropriate for the desired texture and taste of the end product. The plants are then processed into small pieces or fibers before being mixed with ingredients such as spices to create a flavor profile similar to traditional animal-based meats. After this step, the mixture is pressed into various shapes such as burgers, sausages, and deli slices. Finally, it goes through a heating process which gives it a cooked texture.
One advantage of plant-based meat is that it’s much more sustainable than animal-based meat production since it uses fewer resources including land and water. Additionally, some manufacturers are using lab grown proteins instead of processed plants to produce these products. This eliminates many of the environmental concerns associated with traditional farming methods and could be beneficial for our planet in the long run.
Plant-based meats offer a great alternative to traditional animal-based meats by allowing you to enjoy all the flavors you love while reducing your carbon footprint and your risk of health issues. With all these positives in mind, let’s move on to explore how nutritionally valuable these foods are for our bodies.
The nutritional value of plant-based meat
If you check out ads for plant-based meat substitutes, you will probably be inundated with claims of the products being packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that keep your body healthy and nourished.
But let’s face it. We now live in a world where advertising gimmicks and greenwashing are the order of the day, so best not to take everything at face value. What does the science say?
In one study comparing plant-based meat substitutes and meat, plant-based meat products were found to have higher fiber content, as well as lower energy density and total fat content, including saturated fat. In fact, when compared to plant-based meat products, meat products had more than twice the amount of saturated fat.
We know that high fat intake is a major cause of various health problems such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, but studies have revealed that plant-based diets, which include consuming plant-based meat, can be beneficial for managing all these issues. Moreover, research has also shown that cutting down red meat can lower the risk of heart disease and the American Heart Association (AHA) has advised that eating a plant-based diet may improve heart health.
On the other hand, research has established that plant-based meat not only has significantly lower levels of protein, but significantly higher levels of sodium as well. These findings have been corroborated by conclusions made in other studies.
So, on one end you have lower saturated fat and energy density, which is a good thing for health, but the high sodium levels and low protein, not so much. Other studies also suggest that plant-based meat requires some fortification with essential vitamins and minerals if it’s to become a part of a healthy diet. This is because while some plant-based meat manufacturers will add essential vitamins to their products, others don’t.
One thing is clear—plant-based meat has its benefits, but it’s not created equal. Ultimately, you have to be diligent when it comes to picking the products that will provide the most nutritional value.
How to choose healthy plant-based meats
When choosing your plant-based meats, remember to read the labels carefully. Look for products with:
- Low sodium. As a general rule, you want to consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
- Low saturated fat. The more your plant-based meat constitutes 10% or less of the calories, the better.
- Nutrient-rich ingredients. This includes vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
- Protein-rich ingredients to help achieve the recommended daily protein intake.
- Added vitamins and minerals, including zinc, vitamins C and D, and vitamins 6 and B12.
- No added sugars and artificial ingredients such as preservatives or flavorings that could be unhealthy if overconsumed.
Now that we’ve looked at the health benefits and risks associated with plant-based meats, let’s explore the popular brands on the market today.
Popular plant-based meat brands on the market
There is no longer a shortage of brands in the plant-based meat market, but here are four top contenders:
- Beyond Meat: Beyond Meat is one of the most recognizable names in the plant-based meat industry. They offer a wide variety of products, from burgers to sausages to crumbles. All their products are made from pea protein and other plant-based ingredients.
- Impossible Foods: Another big name in the plant-based meat market is Impossible Foods. Their burgers are made with a proprietary blend of soy and potato proteins for an even more realistic “meat” experience.
- Gardein: Gardein has been around since 2003, so they have plenty of experience when it comes to creating delicious plant-based foods that mimic traditional meats. They make everything from chicken nuggets to fishless filets to beefless tips and much more!
- Lightlife: Rounding out this list is Lightlife, which specializes in plant-based deli meats, hot dogs, bacon, and other items that can help you quickly whip up meals that taste just like their real meat counterparts.
These four brands represent some of the best that the plant-based meat industry has to offer right now; however, there are also many other great options out there as well. The beauty of having so many brands on the market is it’s easier than ever before to find something you’ll love—no matter what your diet looks like.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How much plant-based meat should I eat each day?
When it comes to plant-based meats, the short answer is that it depends on your lifestyle and dietary needs. If you’re looking to add more plant-based proteins into your diet, then there are a few things you need to consider. For starters, look at the nutritional information on the packaging of the product. This will give you an idea of what type of protein and other nutrients the product contains.
It’s also important to think about how much plant-based meat fits into your overall diet plan. Plant-based meats can be part of a balanced diet when eaten in moderation, but they should not replace other healthy sources of protein such as lean meats or fish. Additionally, some plant-based meats may contain sodium or added sugars which could affect your daily intake if eaten in excess.
The best way to determine how much plant-based meat is right for you is by consulting with a doctor or nutritionist who can provide tailored advice based on your individual health goals and lifestyle habits. They can help you create an eating plan that incorporates both animal products and plant-based proteins for optimal benefit. With a bit of effort, it’s possible to enjoy delicious meals while still getting all the essential nutrients your body needs.
2. Are there any potential health risks associated with consuming plant-based meat?
Plant-based meat comes with several benefits including high fiber, low energy density and low saturated fat. However, it is important to be mindful of how much plant-based meat we consume. Eating too much can lead to high blood sugar levels, weight gain, and other serious health issues. Additionally, some plant-based meats may contain added preservatives or ingredients that could be harmful if eaten in excess. Therefore, it is always a good idea to check labels on products before purchasing them.
3. Can I eat plant-based meat if I have a food allergy?
Eating plant-based meat can be a great way to get all the necessary nutrients, but if you have a food allergy, there may be some ingredients in plant-based meat that could trigger a reaction.
Before you try any new foods, it’s always best to consult with your doctor or dietitian. They’ll be able to advise you on which foods are safe for you to eat and which ones should be avoided if you have an allergy and food sensitivities. Additionally, make sure to read the label of any product before purchasing it so that you can identify any potential allergens. So, whether plant-based meat is safe for those with food allergies depends on each individual case.
4. What is the cost comparison between plant-based meat and animal protein?
There are several factors to consider when looking at the cost comparison between plant-based meat and animal protein, but the top ones are the source of each product and production costs.
Animal protein typically comes from farm-raised livestock that can be expensive to raise, feed, and maintain. Plant-based proteins usually come from sources such as soybeans or legumes that require fewer resources for production. This means that plant-based meat is often cheaper than its animal protein counterparts.
In addition, animal protein requires more intensive processing than plant-based meats since they need to be cooked or treated more extensively for safety purposes. This makes animal protein more costly to produce than plant-based alternatives which only need minimal processing.
Plant-based alternatives tend to be less expensive due to their lower resource requirements for production and minimal processing needs compared to traditional animal protein sources. However, prices may vary depending on the origin of each product, so it’s important to do your research before making any decisions about incorporating either one into your diet.
5. How do I cook plant-based meat correctly?
Cooking plant-based meat correctly can be a tricky process. It’s a totally different experience from cooking animal proteins, and if you’re new to the game, it’s easy to make some common mistakes. But by following some simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to perfecting the cook-up of your favorite vegetarian options.
First things first: don’t overcook it! Plant-based meat is usually fairly tender and delicate, so you want to pay attention to ensure that it doesn’t dry out or become too chewy.
Next, while pan-frying is always an option for plant-based meats, you may want to consider baking instead. Baking offers a nice balance between keeping the meat moist and giving it a bit of a crunchy edge.
Finally, keep in mind that plant-based meats sometimes need a bit of flavor boost once cooked, especially if you’re cooking something like tofu or tempeh. Just add some salt and pepper or any other seasoning of your choice for a delicious finish.