Are meat substitutes healthier than meat?
With more people changing their food preferences, meat substitutes have become popular over the years. The plant-based meat industry is thriving. Not only vegans but even non-vegetarians have increased the consumption of meat substitutes. Protein-based plant alternatives to meat are often compared with meat in terms of their health benefits.
So, have you ever thought if meat substitutes are healthy for us? Do you think that they give us more nutritional benefits than the meat itself? Here we’ll discuss if meat substitutes are healthier than meat.
What are the nutrients that we get from meat?
It isn’t true that people eat animal meat just for their taste and flavors. Indeed meat tastes delicious, but it has plenty of nutritional benefits as well. Many dieticians, therefore, recommend the addition of animal meat to the daily diet. Protein is one of the main nutrients that we get from meat. The meat of any animal we have is protein-dense. Protein is essential for muscle growth and development in the early years as well as later. It also strengthens our bones and gives energy by boosting metabolism.
Moreover, consuming meat also provides us other nutritional supplements like iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamin A, B, D, and K. These vitamins and minerals are crucial for the overall immunity and well-being of our bodies. Regular intake of animal meat doesn’t create a deficiency of these nutrients and avoid the risks of many contracting related diseases.
What are the main meat substitutes?
Now we know that consuming meat has several health benefits. So, why do people look for meat substitutes when they get all they want from meat. It is because the consumption of animal meat has a drastic impact on the eco-system and is also contributing to climate change in many ways. So, besides vegans, people who are environmentally conscious and compassionate towards animals are opting for meat substitutes.
Whenever we talk about meat alternatives, we look for plant-based foods that are rich in protein. Some of the main plant-based sources of protein are lentils, soy, tofu, chickpeas, beans, nuts, whole grain, milk, potato, and other dairy products. These are plant-based meat substitutes loaded with protein and other key nutrients.
Is vegan meat better for our health?
Vegan meat is an exact substitute for meat and is made of pure vegetarian ingredients. It appears, tastes, and feels like animal meat but its composition is totally different. People who consume vegan meat often wonder if these meat substitutes are healthier than meat. The fact if vegan meat is healthier than animal meat depends on certain factors such as
Type of ingredients used:
Vegan meat is composed of a variety of ingredients to replicate the texture, taste, and appearance of its meat counterparts. The major contents that go into the making of vegan meat are soybeans, wheat, water, potato protein, cellulose, flavored nutrients, and coconut oil. The companies that produce vegan meat claim that they use pure natural content. If purely organic or natural ingredients are used then vegan meat is healthy for us depending on other factors.
However, that may not be the case. In reality, there are chances that while imitating animal meat, many producers may add artificial components like protein powder, artificial color, flavors, and even preservatives. It is either to enhance the taste or its appearance or prevent it from getting spoilt for a long time. In such a case where vegan meat also includes artificial additives and preservatives, it isn’t better for our health. You don’t get the key nutrients by consuming them as you would have got by having a specific meat variety.
Protein source and its quantity:
The type of protein source used in making vegan meat is also important in deciding if it is healthier than meat. Moreover, the quantity in which it is used is also a crucial factor. The main protein source used in vegan meat is soybeans, or processed soy, or chickpea, or beans, or wheat gluten. Although chickpea and soybeans are healthy and rich sources of protein, consumption of wheat gluten, and processed soy isn’t recommended by health experts.
The protein supplement that forms the base ingredient of vegan meat must also provide other vitamins and minerals as provided by animal meat. So, plant-based will be as healthy as meat if it is made of chickpea or soy and they are present in a considerable amount.
Usually, animal meat contains cholesterol and both saturated and unsaturated fat. Fat and cholesterol are lacking in some substitutes of meat and that is a good sign. However, some fats are healthy and our body needs them. Some types are vegan meat are over-processed and contain a huge quantity of saturated fat and sodium which is counterproductive for our bodies. So, the fat percent in vegan meat must be there in the required amount for it to be healthier than meat.
Overall, we need to look into all these factors to decide if meat substitutes are healthier than meat. It is difficult to say if plant-based meat is healthier than meat. But in some cases where vegan meat is constituted of natural contents and its ingredients are broken down and compared with meat, it is found to be equally healthy as meat. So, we would advise you to always check the label before buying vegan meat.
Are other vegan alternatives to meat healthier than meat?
It is difficult to get enough protein from a vegan diet but it isn’t impossible. Seafood and beef provide plenty of protein and vital nutrients. However, plant-based meat alternatives are no less. It is not that vegans are protein-deficient. Just because they do not consume meat doesn’t mean that they do not have plant-based options to get protein and other nutritional benefits like meat-eaters get.
Dairy products, tofu, nuts, seeds, quinoa, beans, legumes, and soy in their natural form are excellent sources of protein and give good competition to their meat counterparts. They just have to be consumed in a balanced way to get the required benefits.
So, there are many healthy plant-based alternatives to meat that provide similar key nutrients. Also, both meat-based and plant-based foods are healthy at their individual levels and benefit consumers in their own way. At the end of the day to stay healthy, what matters the most is the quantity and quality of food that we have.