In the early days of alternative meats, there really were not any great options. Most of them involved veggie burgers cobbled together from mysterious vegetables that barely resembled the beloved burger we all know and love. Most of the time, they didn’t taste too great either. Nowadays, food scientists have been working on much better solutions, including Beyond Meat Burgers and Impossible Meat Burgers. But are these actually any healthier for us?
These alternative meats usually include ingredients like soy protein concentrate, sunflower oil, coconut oil, potato starch, pea protein, apple extract, cocoa butter, methylcelluose, soy leghemoglobin, and more. Researchers from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota have helped answer whether or not these alternatives are actually healthier.
The researchers took 37 plant-based ground beef alternative products from nine different companies and compared them to ground beef in nutritional value.
According to Lisa Harnack, a professor and lead author of the study: “It’s a mixed bag. Plant-based ground beef alternative products tend to be a good source of nutrients like folate, fiber, and iron. And most of the products were found to contain substantially lower amounts of saturated fat in comparison to ground beef.”
The one issue was that they lacked protein, vitamin B12, and zinc. Harnack says: “Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products. Beef is a big source of vitamin B12 in the American diet.” The products were also higher in sodium than ground beef, which is an issue that Americans already face.
The plus side is that the formulations of the plant-based products can be updated and changed in order to include the nutrients that they are missing. They can reduce the sodium and be fortified with B12.
The researchers recommend that you always check the nutrition labels of the products you are buying and make sure that they align with your personal health needs.
Plant-based meat alternatives are here to stay, and for those of us who want to limit our intake of animal products, they are a great option. Some of them actually taste pretty darn good too. We can only imagine that they’re only going to get better, more nutritious, and less expensive.