Soy What's the Deal with Plant-Based Meat Alternatives?
Mckenzi Sager - EXALT Fitness Expert - JAN 2022
Plant-based meat is everywhere these days, and why shouldn't it be?
From Quorn, to the Impossible Burger, these high-protein meat alternatives are often labeled as "the future of meat", due to their cruelty-free, environmentally friendly, and healthy macro profile. But are these products as perfect as claimed?
Benefits of Plant-Based 'Meat'
You can really get a plant-based version of everything nowadays, from hamburgers and hot dogs to turkey, shellfish, and other seafood. This huge range of choice can only be a good thing for the market, veggies and vegans, plus the cows we can see as we drive down the M25.
Good for You & the Planet
Many of these products are low in fat and high in fiber, which makes them suitable for those with dietary restrictions, and certainly better for you than that kebab shop you've been eyeing up. In addition to being healthy and convenient, plant-based meats meats are quite environmentally friendly and ethical as they don’t require the use of animals, antibiotics, and other additives.
Vegan & Vegetarians Are Included
They’re a great option for the growing number of vegans and vegetarians across the Western world. Time to throw a plant-based shrimp on the barbie! (The future is weird.)
Some Downsides of Plant-Based Alternatives
Long Ingredient Labels…
If you’re one of the growing number of people who object to long ingredient lists full of artificial flavour enhancers on the label, then you may object to the many additives used in plant-based meats or the genetically modified proteins used. With plant-based meats, it’s unavoidable usually to include flavour enhancers to compensate for a lack of taste, artificial colouring (although sometimes beets are used) GMO’s, and binders.
They Have To Be Processed, Much Like Meat, To Increase Shelf Life…
You’d think plant-based meats don’t have to be processed—as processing is often thought of as the anti-christ of health food. But yes, those vegan burgers from Morrisons are likely processed much like the “real meat” is, to increase shelf life. According to He et al. (2020) *Puts on glasses* carcinogenic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrosamines, and heterocyclic aromatic amines, found in meats cooked at high temperature, may also occur in plant-based meat alternatives *takes them off again* Essentially, all the bad carcinogens that we associate with processed food, might also be an issue with plant-based foods.
If You’ve Got Allergies and Intolerances, You Might Have a Problem…
Because so many different legumes and grains are used in the processing of these plant-based alternatives, it’s kind of hard to tell if there’s something in there that’ll make you react (or minimum, get bloated AF). As lots of plant-based protein has to be pumped into these products, and thousands (yes, thousands) of different plant-based proteins are recognized as allergens, you could be exposing yourself to food you can’t tolerate. So, if you have known allergies to legumes, be careful. It’s hard to track exactly what kind of legume is in your veggie meatballs.
Health Benefits *Might* Not Be All They’re Cracked Up To Be…
The processing these products go through also lessens the nutritional benefits of soybeans, which usually offer great health benefits in their full, legume form. Some products also contain coconut oil, which has saturated fat levels similar to (or even higher than) chicken and pork products, even though coconut oil sounds healthier than pork oil, we’ll give it that.
So overall, you can’t just assume that eating plant-based alternatives are going to save your diet and health alone, you have to pick the right products. There’s no real evidence yet that plant-based meats guarantee a healthy alternative to high-quality meat.
But we get it, high-quality meat can be difficult to recognize or even get ahold of. And given the option between a Big Mac and an impossible burger, we know what we’d take.
We also recommend eating plant-based foods that don’t try to be exactly like meat. If you’re going to go plant-based, why not drop the whole vegan turkey thing, and just stick to whole foods that don’t have an ingredient list more indecipherable that Dans drunk texts? Just some plant-based food for thought ;)
EXALT has two plant-based nutrition plans!
Plant-Based Protein, Juice and meal Plans
Our nutrition plans are designed by our clinical-lead dietitian for healthier, sustainable weight loss, and come with plant-based options. We have two types of plan below, with RESET including plant-based meals delivered to your door, in collaboration with MunchFit.