Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular. Approximately 6% of US consumers are now vegan, which is six times higher than in 2014.
Consumers that follow a plant-based diet do so for a variety of reasons, and many rely on meat substitutes as part of their meal plan.
But, while meat substitutes are designed to taste similar to the real meat, in a recent study, scientists found that the nutritional content is hugely different.
The study, which was carried out by researchers at Duke University, determined that meat products and plant-based substitutes are not “truly nutritionally interchangeable.”
According to the researchers, this information should be made available to consumers so that they can make an informed choice about their food choices.
In the last few years, a number of studies have urged people to cut down their meat and dairy consumption, and for countries to start producing much less of these products.
There are huge concerns over the effects of meat production on the environment, including the high level of greenhouse gas emissions from cattle.
After years of investments and impressive marketing campaigns, companies have started to create plant-based alternatives to meat, many of which taste similar to the real thing.
However, despite the manufacturers claiming their products are “indistinguishable” from real meat, the latest research shows that they are vastly different in terms of nutrients.
Manufacturers add certain nutrients to their plant-based meat, including proteins from soy, peas, and other plant sources, vitamin B12, zinc, leghemoglobin (an iron-carrying molecule from soy and red beet), and the fiber methylcellulose.
The study found that there were large differences in the nutritional profiles. The beef samples that were used contained 22 metabolites not found in the alternative, and the plant-based version contained 31 that weren’t found in real meat.
Some metabolites, such as DHA, spermine, and creatine, were found in much higher quantities in beef than in the plant-based beef alternative.
However, the author noted, “It is important for consumers to understand that these products should not be viewed as nutritionally interchangeable, but that’s not to say that one is better than the other. Plant and animal foods can be complementary because they provide different nutrients”.