Insight: Vegan Meat vs. Animal Meat: Nutritional Benefits and Other Myths
Vegan meat (or alternative meat) has taken the high road and gone mainstream. But with all the hype surrounding it, do you get all the nutritional value? Last year McDonald's launched a vegan burger. Burger King launched its version even years ahead. Impossible Foods plans to make their "fishless fish". As consumers look for a more sustainable diet, alternative meat products a.k.a. Vegan meat is becoming more and more popular.
The big question remains: How do they compare to animal meat and their by-products in terms of nutritional value?
Let's chomp deeper into this meat question…
What is Vegan Meat?
Mock Meat is also known as fake meat, vegetarian meat, meatless meat, alternative meat, and a whole lot more. In general, vegan meat falls into two categories: (1) plant-based protein and (2) cell-based protein. The first is extracted and isolated from plants then are combined with other plant-based ingredients to make a final product. Proponents of this process include Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger.
The second category of vegan meat extracts animal cells and grows them in a lab culture to create a "piece" of meat. It takes about 6 weeks to grow a chicken and slaughter it. In cell-based meat, it takes about the same amount of time but ONLY produces meat. No bones, feathers, and the like. Two Popular startups include JUST Meat and Memphis Meats. This type of meat is not yet released in the mainstream market.
Health Benefits of Mock Meat
We probably know that switching to vegan meat is not just better for the environment but also your health. By counting calories alone Burger King admits that their vegan burger has fewer calories than their original whopper. Their "Imposible Whopper" contains lesser fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and less cholesterol.
- It Can Help You Achieve a Healthy Body Weight
Vegan meat has lower calories than animal meat. This makes it easier for the body to get an ideal body weight since you will not cut on calories anymore. There is less saturated fat as compared to animal-derived products. Studies also show that vegans have a lower body mass index.
- It Boosts Moods
According to Peta, in the article 7 Fantastic Health Benefits of Eating Vegan, a depression test was conducted to profile vegetarians and non-vegans. Vegetarians had better scores than meat-eaters.
- It can reduce Arthritis pain
Studies show that eating vegan foods helps reduce the pain of arthritis. Consuming animal meat is linked to inflammation of the joints. Eating probiotic foods can boost the good bacteria in the large intestine helping boost the absorption of nutrients and reduce inflammation.
- Helps You avoid Chronic Illness like Cancer and Diabetes
By lessening the intake of food with saturated fat, and increasing the intake of fiber and vitamins, you become healthier and less susceptible to diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Starting a vegan diet can be one of the best ways to avoid cancer. Plant-based foods are also packed with phytochemicals that are powerful antioxidants. According to the same article, a German research concluded that cancer rates are less for vegetarians.
- Lowers Blood Sugar
Most plant-based foods are high in fiber. Fiber helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Fiber helps balance cortisol levels which diminishes your feeling of hunger throughout the day.
- Lowers Cholesterol
Plants do not have cholesterol. So, if you are on a plant-based diet, you would have less cholesterol in your body.
- Increases Potassium
Animal Meat products have zero potassium. Vegetables, fruits, and nuts contain potassium. Opting for vegan meat directs you to move towards consuming more potassium.
With all these benefits and the craze on what vegan meat can do not just to the environment but also to one's health, how come most of the people are not yet joining the bandwagon?
According to dietician Samantha Cassety, people are really curious and are willing to make trades if they are convinced that the mock meat is not just a sustainable choice but also the healthier choice. She further said, "These are manufactured foods and some of the ingredients are better than others. It might look like meat and act like meat but we just don't really know what's going to happen there."
Myths About Alternative Meat and What You Should Know
- You Don't Get Enough Protein
Protein requirements for each individual vary. But the average requirement is about 0.83/kg/day according to Biomed Environ. Vegans following a strict vegan diet will get enough protein. Athletes who consume 1.8/kg/day have no notable benefit. Although plant-based alternatives do not have the same amount of protein in their animal meat counterpart, there are other adequate substitutes to load you up with protein.
- It Does Not Taste the Same
Food technology has come a long way when it comes to making vegan meat taste the same as animal meat. Chef Asan Granit said when he tasted alt meat, 'When you bite into the meat it tastes strong that you think it is real meat. Not only do you see the texture but the flavors taste the same. The flavors are the same." He further said, "It's funny, it plays with your mind. It makes no sense"
- It is More Expensive
The most common misconception about mock meat is that it is more expensive. Vegan Meat has already gone mainstream and according to Meticulous Research, the industry is expected to be worth billions of dollars by 2027. Redefine Meat, an Israeli based startup has been stepping up their research and development for alternative meat. The company said that their products will either be the same price as the steaks in restaurants or even cheaper.
- Does not Give the Same Amount of Nutrients
Plants are the most nutrient-dense foods. This myth is somewhat laughable. With the food technology that we have, mock meat can be engineered with the right amount of nutrients that animal meat cannot naturally provide. If you eat a vegan diet you are bound to load up on vitamin C, calcium, iron, and zinc. Some vegetables contain protein. The only vitamin you need for the supplement is Vitamin B12.
- It is Hard to Find in Grocery Stores
Can you find vegan meat in any department store nowadays? Most supermarkets will have vegan meat available for purchase. If you asked this question 10 years ago, the answer would not have been the same. Now, you can buy vegan meat almost anywhere, especially online. Plant-based diets are different for each individual. Generally speaking, it is even less expensive and healthier than animal meat.
Going Meatless with Vegan Meat
Going meatless is something you should try not just because it is a trend, nor should you try it because of sustainability. You should try it because first and foremost it is the healthier option. Choosing alternative meat when ordering a burger is a start. Adding some more greens with your diet is also a good way to jump-start your vegan journey. Bottom line, at the end of the day, watch what you put in your mouth and try to keep yourself healthy always.