Plant-based meat has quickly gained popularity, especially in the fast-food industry. The most popular choice is the vegan burger that mimics the real one in almost all possible ways. Also, industry-leading fast-food chains are introducing it on their menu because of the increased demand from customers. Brands claim that these food products are a boon for the environment and health. That said, many people follow a vegan or vegetarian diet for health benefits, and this requires eating more whole foods. Read on to know whether plant-based meat is good for health or not.
The Nitty-Gritty Of Plant-Based Meat
Plant-based meat alternatives like tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc., offer an alternate source of protein, minerals, and vitamins. On the contrary, plant-based meat products like burgers are highly processed food. They usually contain high amounts of saturated fats from plant sources like coconut oil. It is used for mimicking animal fat. You must know that saturated fat sourced from both animals and plants are bad for health. Consuming it in high amounts triggers cardiovascular inflammation that is the primary cause of heart diseases.
The Paradox Of Plant-Based Meat
Plant-based meat entered the market when the movement of environmental activism was gaining momentum. You should already know that factory farming and the meat industry are two of the major contributors to environmental pollution and climate change. So, naturally, the environmentalists and those who follow a sustainable lifestyle wholeheartedly embraced as well as began promoting the consumption of plant-based meat alternatives and plant-based meat products. But the overarching question is, are plant-based meats good for health?
The Rise In Popularity Of Plant-Based Meat
Plant-based meat products have been there for some time. But they began gaining popularity when fast-food chains began serving them. This happened because of the rise in demand for faux meat and plant-based options for potential vegetarian and vegan customers. For instance, popular burger chains like Burger King and Wendy’s introduced plant-based burgers that became overwhelmingly popular among their customers. Also, this is augmented by the awareness of people that plant-based food is better than animal-based food.
The Difference Between Plant-Based Burgers And Veggie Patties
The main difference between veggie patties and plant-based burgers is that the former is targeted specifically at vegetarians and vegans. Because of this, they usually do not taste or feel like meat. However, plant-based meat products like burgers are designed to taste, feel, and look like meat. They are marketed to meat-eaters as well as to those who are switching to plant-based diets.
Plant-based meat helps to reduce the amount of meat consumed by meat-eaters. Due to this, they are promoted by those involved in animal activism. With that said, these products are highly processed foods that have lower nutritional value than whole foods. They undergo processes like drying, canning, baking, freezing, etc. Also, they contain additives like extra salt, sugar, and oil. Moreover, the texture, taste, and look of plant-based burgers are created with the help of highly processed compounds. All these are not good for a healthy diet.
Pros And Cons Of Plant-Based Meat
A Boon For Environment:
Plant-based meats are produced using plant-based ingredients, and because of this, they have a lower environmental impact. According to a survey, the carbon footprint of companies specializing in producing plant-based burgers is 89% to 90% lower than the regular ones. Likewise, they have 93% less impact on land, 99% less impact on water resources, and they use 46% less energy. You must also know that, as newer food production technologies emerge, these numbers are going to get even better. Besides, companies selling plant-based meat use environmentalism as a selling point.
Increased Amounts Of Sodium And Saturated Fat:
There are three types of fats: monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and saturated fats. Plant-based food mostly contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. But animal-based food like red meat contains higher amounts of saturated fat, and it is bad for health when consumed in large quantities.
Plant-based saturated fat is contained in products like coconut oil, butter, cream, avocado, dark chocolate, and extra virgin olive oil. They are good for health when consumed in small quantities. In large quantities, it increases the risk of heart diseases. Plant-based meat products use refined coconut oil as an alternative to animal fat. So, they are not good for health when consumed frequently on the misguided notion that they are made using plant-based ingredients. Furthermore, sodium is used as a preservative in these products. Its high intake leads to high blood pressure, stroke, atherosclerosis, and heart diseases.
Amount Of Specific Nutrients:
Studies have shown that adding more plant-based food to your diet reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases. Also, plant-based burgers have low amounts of carcinogens compared to the regular ones. Plant-based burger manufacturers also add vitamins like B6, B12, B2, B1, E, along with zinc and niacin. So, they have a slightly better nutrient profile than regular hamburgers.
Regular and long-term consumption of plant-based meat products like burgers is not good for health even though it is good for the environment.