Vegan Foods

Being vegan is more than plant-based meat. It’s not as healthy as you think

Representative image of a vegetable meat patty. | Photo credit: Flikr / Marco Verch

Text size:

An more and more people around the world are more inclined to adopt a plant-based diet every day. Eating more plant-based foods is considered to be better for health, ethics and the climate. A variety of herbal products are taking the food market by storm. Plant-based fake meats are the new additions to our daily diet. Sure, they’re better choices for animals and the environment, but what nutritional value do they add to your plate? Meats of plant origin are processed, industrially produced and have their advantages and disadvantages that require special attention before making them your favorite substitutes for animal meats.

The estimated global value of the plant-based meat market was $ 4.3 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $ 8.3 billion by 2025, growing by 14%, according to a report by Markets and Markets. About 30 percent of India’s population is vegetarian, according to recent census data. The remaining 70 percent are not vegetarians but consume relatively small amounts of meat. This population is known as the “flexitarians” – a group that generally have a vegetarian diet with only occasional consumption of eggs, meat or fish. Even though most Indians eat a plant-based diet, the craze for fake meat is remarkable in the country. Various agricultural and start-up companies produce plant-based meat substitutes using soybeans, beans, legumes, legumes, wheat, potatoes, etc.

Read also: Indian veganism is one thing and is taking off. Especially during a pandemic

Let’s talk about nutrition

False or plant-based meats mimic animal meat products and are used in making foods like burgers, sausages, ham, and meatballs. Most of the meat substitutes on the market include proteins of plant origin such as soybeans, green peas, jackfruit, wheat gluten (seitan), legumes, beans, vegetable proteins, nuts and seeds.

Overall, plant-based foods are healthy. The diet is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and is therefore beneficial for weight management, prevention of heart disease, reduction of cancer risk and maintenance of balance. healthy gut microbiome. In fact, reputable health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association advise people to eat more plant-based meat than animal meat for better health results. False meats are low in fat, provide almost the same amount of protein as real meat products like ground beef, chicken, turkey, and are just as good. The SWAP-MEAT study, or The Study With Appetizing Plantfood — Meat Eating Alternatives Trial, 2020, involved 36 participants who were advised to eat meat for eight weeks and then switch from meat products to herbal alternatives for an additional eight weeks. The authors reported significant improvements in several risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the participants.

However, it is not taken for granted that everything about vegetable meat is healthy, just because it is produced from vegetable sources.

Read also: Meat lover who wants to save the planet? 3D printed steaks are your solution

Processed meat is always processed

The quality of plant-based meats is under scanner as they are often highly processed, contain high amounts of sodium, vegetable oils, food colors, additives to fix the texture and artificial flavors to add flavor. real meat. They are mass-produced in the factory and therefore do not stand out in terms of quality compared to other industrially processed meat products. In a recent study, researcher Lisa Harnack and colleagues assessed the nutritional quality of 37 plant-based ground meat products popular in the United States in 2019, to determine whether plant-based ground meat could provide essential nutrients. such as zinc, protein, vitamin B12 and sodium compared to ground beef. The study concluded that fake meats lacked vitamin B12 and contained 18% more sodium than beef.

Not necessarily environmentally friendly

According to an Observer Research Foundation article, nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen oxides, are from livestock. About 65 percent of all domestic emissions come from beef and dairy products alone. Scientists constantly warn that there will be a massive global food crisis unless humans change the way they produce meat and use land.

It is undeniable that most simulated meats are linked to less greenhouse gas emissions than animal products and have less impact on climate change and global warming. However, some plant-based substitutes, for example those derived from soybeans, are not so environmentally friendly. Industrial processing of soybean oil uses a chemical called Hexane, which is a potential neurotoxin and air pollutant. Additionally, soy is often genetically modified (GM), and research has shown that GM crops use more herbicides and negatively impact the agricultural ecosystem in the process.

Commenting on the two biggest faux meat brands in the United States – Beyond and Impossible – Marco Springmann, senior environmental researcher at the University of Oxford, said: “However, while their processed products have about half the carbon footprint that chicken does, they also have 5 times the footprint. than a bean patty. So Beyond and Impossible is going somewhere toward reducing your carbon footprint, but to say it’s the most climate-friendly thing to do, that’s a false promise. “

Read also: Why plant-based diets are essential for the future of our planet

Be careful when choosing simulated meat

Read food labels while you shop or eat plant-based meat products. Choose a product that includes beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, that is lower in sodium, and that is fortified with essential micronutrients. They should not contain more than 10% of calories from saturated fat, little or no artificial colors, preservatives and sugar in all its forms. Whether you are following a strict vegan diet, an animal diet, or both, you can still make poor food choices if you fail to read nutrition labels.

Plant-based meats are a welcome move to save the planet and animals, but not all are nutritious. An industrially processed vegetable protein burger patty fried in cottonseed oil is not a healthy option at all. If you want to go vegan, eat a diverse range of plant-based whole foods to ensure optimal intake of essential micronutrients and proteins.

Subhasree Ray is a PhD Student (Ketogenic Diet), Certified Diabetes Educator, and Clinical and Public Health Nutritionist. She tweets @DrSubhasree. Opinions are personal.

(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube and Telegram

Why the news media is in crisis and how to fix it

India needs free, fair, uninhibited, interrogative journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media are in a crisis of their own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, giving in to crass spectacle in prime time.

ThePrint employs the best young reporters, columnists and editors. Supporting journalism of this quality requires smart, thoughtful people like you to pay the price. Whether you live in India or abroad, you can do it here.

Support our journalism