Plant-based meats are good for the planet, but are they good for you?

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The plant-based diet movement has gained momentum in recent years as more and more people embrace vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. Some cite health as the reason, while others go veg-only in hopes of doing their bit for the planet. More and more people are willing to ditch their burgers and steaks as the public grows more aware of the farming industry’s impact on the environment and cruelty to animals.

David Yeung, co-founder of vegetarian company Green Monday and plant-based meat brand OmniFoods, has noticed this shift in consumer behavior since OmniPork launched in 2018. customers primarily motivated by sustainability, health, environment and animal rights, becoming a flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan.

Some meat eaters are eager to embrace the trend of doing their bit for the environment; others incorporate them for health reasons. A 2022 study from the Unilever Foods Innovation Center concludes that those looking to improve their health should seek plant-centered diets. The report states that “health authorities are increasingly recommending a more plant-based diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts, low in red meat and moderate in dairy products, eggs, poultry and fish, which will be beneficial for both. health and the environment. »

Photo: Shutterstock

Consuming more fruits and vegetables in their natural form does the trick, are meat alternatives like Beyond Burgers or Impossible Chicken Nuggets necessary nutritional supplements to a plant-based diet? And should meat eaters swap their steaks for soy-based beef?

#Nutritional benefits of plant-based meats

#Environmental impact

#A gourmet trend

Nutritional Benefits of Plant-Based Meats

Plant-based meat substitutes are nothing new; think of the furky, veggie burgers of the early 2000s. Consumers have become more open to the idea thanks to a new generation of meat alternatives hitting supermarket shelves.

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Photo: Shutterstock

Among them are offerings from Beyond Meats, Vegetarian Butcher and Hong Kong-based OmniFoods. Take a look at the back of a box of veggie burgers and you’ll find a slew of ingredients and additives. Pea and soy proteins, vegetable oils, wheat gluten, and pigments are some of the most common ingredients that mimic the flavors, colors, and textures of meat.

Although OmniFoods flavors use 100% natural ingredients, these meat alternatives are still processed from animal protein. For the average omnivore, does it make sense to switch to plant-based meats?

Certified sports nutritionist Alex Thomas says he frowns on any restrictive diet that cuts out entire food groups. While he thinks it’s possible to get all the nutrients you need from a plant-based diet, he feels it takes a lot of planning and knowledge.

“For vegans, protein from complete protein sources should be consumed, [vegans need to] identify high-protein vegan foods and figure out how to combine them so that all protein is complete. Iron can be, and vitamin B12 supplementation would also be needed,” he says.

Yeung says products like OmniPork and OmniTuna are great supplements for vegans and vegetarians for this reason. “OmniPork has significantly better nutrient profiles than most meat products, and without antibiotics or hormones.”

David Yeung.  Photo: OmniFoods
David Yeung. Photo: OmniFoods

Plant-based meats use soy and non-GMO ingredients to supplement vegan diets with protein.

It is also free of trans fats and cholesterol. It contains no hormones, artificial colors, MSG, added antibiotics or preservatives, which Yeung says often contains animal protein and processed meats.

Despite advances in flavor and nutritional composition, some, including nutritionist, naturopath and founder of The Wellness Group Madeline Calfas, believe animal protein is still superior and a better option for those who are not vegan or healthy. vegetarianism.

“Humans as a species are omnivores, and we are physically and biologically designed to eat meat and animal products,” she says. “Animal sources are where we get B12, heme iron, creatine, carnosine, vitamin D3, DHA (omega 3 fatty acid) and taurine. absorbable compared to non-animal proteins.

Although she places one of the biggest concerns about plant-based meats as additives such as sugars, artificial colors and high levels of saturated fat, she thinks reducing meat consumption may be beneficial for some.

“Should we reduce the amount of meat we eat each week? For some people, yes. Too much red meat can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and colorectal cancer.

She advocates making the effort to read food labels, just like you would any other processed food, and eating in moderation.

Environmental impact

Despite our omnivorous nature, more and more people are embracing flexitarianism due to the environmental implications of eating meat.

“When people choose plant-based products, the savings in water consumption, land use, and greenhouse gas emissions are well over 90 percent,” Yeung says.

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The livestock industry takes a heavy toll on the environment and is often criticized for its treatment of animals. Photo: Shutterstock

He says plant-based meats are ten times more eco-efficient than their animal-based counterparts. “If people truly realize the outrageous environmental damage caused by factory farming and overfishing, they will understand why alternative proteins really play such a vital role in saving the planet.”

Calfas observes that there is pressure on his clients to follow the social and environmental narrative of the plant-based diet. For some people, this works to their advantage. “There is a percentage of the population that thrives on a plant-based diet; the majority of us don’t work at all.

Madeline Calfas.
Nutritionist Madeline Calfas. Photo: The Wellness Group

Vegetarian Butcher is a plant-based meat producer founded in the Netherlands in 2010 on the principle that, despite a desire to do their bit for the planet, most people just don’t want to give up meat completely. Its founder Jaap Korteweg created his products to ensure that those who want to enjoy the ecological benefits of a plant-based diet don’t feel like they’re sacrificing flavor and, in some cases, tradition.

Regardless of their health claims, there is no doubting the influence of the environment on the growing popularity of plant-based meat.

A delicious trend

Common green OmniTuna dishes in November
OmniTuna green common plates. Photo: Green Commune

If OmniFoods’ partnerships with F&B outlets are any indication, the plant-based meat trend is here to stay. “Restaurants and chefs are eager to get their hands on plant-based meats and offer their signature plant-based dishes, which allow them to reinvent and recreate their cuisine,” says Yeung.

Along with the slew of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, many traditional outlets such as Starbucks, McDonald’s Hong Kong, Four Seasons Hotels, Grand Hyatt Hotels and Ikea are expanding their offerings with plant-based meat options.

Beyond food, food provides great comfort through its textures and flavors, which modern plant foods seem to have finally understood. As Calfas says, “They generally tend to have a lot more flavor and look a lot less like cardboard than when they first arrived in our fridges. If something tastes good, more people are likely to want to eat it.”

Also see: A Nutritionist Demystifies the Health Benefits of 3 Fad Diets and Explains Why You Should Ditch Them

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