Plant-Based Meat: A Healthier and More Sustainable Alternative To Animal Products

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Plant-based meat is made directly from plants. Plant-based meat contains protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water and has the same appearance, cooking methods, and flavor as meat derived from animals. The number of people choosing vegan meat—which tastes exactly like meat but has none of the disadvantages—has significantly increased. 

Since people have begun to embrace sustainable and environmentally friendly diets, the market for plant-based meat has expanded significantly. Everyone has grown more cautious and conscious of their activities and the steps they take in every sector due to growing concerns about the environment and the world around them.

However, many are still unsure whether plant-based meats are healthy and a better substitute than animal-based meat. Several sources suggest that an alternative meat product is not necessarily healthier for you because it is plant-based. Depending on the ingredients, healthy plant-based meats might be successful or unsuccessful. Contrary to this, a new paper published in Future Foods argues that plant-based dietary alternatives to animal products are better for the environment and human health than the animal products they are meant to replace.

Confirming Plant-based Meat As Healthier and More Sustainable Alternative 

Plant-based meat and dairy substitutes “provide a healthier and more environmentally sustainable solution that takes into account consumer preferences and behavior,” according to a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Bath.

The review involved 43 studies on the effects of plant-based diets on human health, the environment, and consumer attitudes. One study discovered that almost 90% of consumers who claimed to consume plant-based meat and dairy were meat eaters or flexitarians. In another, it was discovered that plant-based foods comparable to processed meat in terms of taste, texture, and cost stood the best chance of replacing it.

The researchers’ findings led them to conclude that these plant-based foods produced fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the animal foods they were replacing. According to one study, pea protein might reduce CO2 emissions by up to eight million tonnes annually if it were to replace 5% of the beef consumed in Germany. Another study discovered that plant-based burgers had up to 98% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than cow burgers.

According to research on the nutritional profiles of plant-based foods versus animal products, plant-based foods tend to have better nutritional profiles. For example, according to the UK’s Nutrient Profiling Model, 14% of plant-based alternatives are classified as “less healthy” compared to 40% of conventional meat products.

Others discovered that plant-based meat and dairy could benefit those with particular medical conditions by promoting muscle growth and weight loss. To increase the number of amino acids, vitamins B and E, and antioxidants in plant-based diets, food producers may be able to add substances such as edible fungus, microalgae, or spirulina. Future processing and ingredient technology advancements will probably result in even better nutrition.

The research presents strong evidence that plant-based alternatives to animal products have a wide range of health advantages and are significantly more sustainable than animal products in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and land use.

The researchers added that despite the remarkable strides made by producers of plant-based foods in recent years, there is still a great deal of room for improvement in terms of taste, texture, and cooking methods. Additionally, there is a ton of room for innovation in terms of ingredients and procedures to enhance nutritional qualities. Furthermore, although these products have health advantages over meat, many individual factors, such as total calorie intake and degree of activity, will impact health.

Additionally, the authors encouraged future researchers and policymakers to be mindful of the risks associated with skewed consumer perceptions. Although most consumers see plant-based animal product alternatives as more nutritionally sound alternatives, some may mistakenly assume that they are unhealthy and hazardous in other ways because they perceive them as being artificial or highly processed. The authors caution that the conventional animal product industry’s objectives, which strive to discredit these rival products in the eyes of the public, could compound this impression.

Therefore, rather than jumping to the conclusion that animal meat is natural and therefore superior, consumers and policymakers should listen to the science, which indicates that plant-based animal product alternatives have the potential to be a sustainable and healthy component of our future protein landscape.

Journal Reference

Bryant, C. J. (2022). Plant-based animal product alternatives are healthier and more environmentally sustainable than animal products. Future Foods, 6, 100174. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fufo.2022.100174 

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