Plant-based meats have been gaining popularity over the last decade as a “healthy alternative” to the real thing. But a new study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry has found that real meat still packs a much bigger punch.
A research team from Ohio State University studied the nutritional differences between plant-based and real meats. Their experiments found that human cells absorb fewer proteins from meat alternatives because the nutrients are harder to absorb.
“Concerns about food security and the awareness of a healthy diet have shifted the focus from traditional meat products toward plant protein-based meat analogues (MAs),” said Professor Osvaldo Campanella, one of the study’s authors.
“The latter contain abundant proteins and negligible saturated fat and cholesterol, contributing to a reduced occurrence of obesity and cardiovascular diseases,” Campanella explained. “Nevertheless, proteins from plants commonly display inferior digestibility compared to their animal counterparts. This adds uncertainty to the nutritional value of proteins in MAs unless the gap between digestion and absorption is bridged.”
Alternatives to meat have grown in popularity as healthy options as well as a response to the changing climate demands. Over the last few years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released numerous reports with information on mitigation, adaptation and cost estimation as climate change is expected to greatly impact both crop and livestock production in the United States as conditions worsen. Climate change is becoming a matter of life and death, and scientists are working around the clock to determine ways to keep humanity alive, including food and agriculture alternatives.
“The ever-growing population on earth has increased the challenge of providing sufficient proteins from meat without compromising the ecosystem,” Campanella said.
The research team hope that through analyzing and strengthening nutritional developments in plant-based meats, they could achieve a tasty meat option that is healthy for both humans and the environment.