Plant-Based Meat: Find Out the Benefits and Should You Switch to It – News

Vegetable or plant-based meat is an idea that may seem a little futuristic, but in recent years it has received more and more attention from the food industry. In the freezers at the markets, attention is drawn to the diversity of this food that promises to be the “meat” of the future: hamburgers, meatballs, nuggets and even tuna – all without a trace of animal protein.

A proposal that theoretically promises to be healthier and more sustainable if no livestock is used, and therefore less damaging to the environment, may not represent a positive balance in terms of nutritional value, according to experts heard R7.

Foods that convey the color, texture, and even taste of meat are also considered ultra-processed, a food category that indicates an intense industrial process characterized by the loss of important nutrients and an excess of preservatives.

In plant-based meats, soy protein, widely used by vegetarians and other non-animal groups, shares a leading role with pea protein and beet protein, the latter being responsible, for example, for imparting the characteristic color to beef.

The point, in this case, is that the list of ingredients doesn’t end there: there are also preservatives, colors, stabilizers, essences, flavors, and flavor enhancers such as monosodium glutamate, chemicals called xenobiotics known to damage health.

“Xenobiotics disrupt the biochemical process in the body, increasing its inflammation. So maybe if a person has a higher pain threshold, they will feel more pain, they will have a lazier or looser intestine, in addition to a longer delay in the process of losing weight even with less calorie foods,” emphasizes Gabriela Silla, clinical and functional nutritionist.

However, it’s worth noting that brands that offer cleaner-labeled plant-based meats, meaning fewer ingredients and chemicals, may be a good option for those who want to remove animal proteins from the menu. However, even in these cases, daily or occasional use is not recommended.


Trading six for half a dozen

On the other hand, the more natural plant-based meat, the higher the price. The logic also applies to the opposite: the more processed it is, the lower the price tends to be. This is how the food industry works, as explained by Raquel Canuto, Professor of Nutrition at the UFRGS (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul).

“After taking care of this part of the population, which has a little more purchasing power, the food industry always goes in favor of the poorest segments of the population, and, unfortunately, these products always have the worst nutritional qualities,” the expert explains.

In this sense, the scenario of reducing the consumption of red meat, which is also unhealthy, remains unfavorable for the low-income segments of the population, since this type of protein is a source of cholesterol, a type of animal fat that is unhealthy.

“When we compare plant-based burgers — which I’ll call plant-based sausages — with raw meat, we might think that it’s healthier to eat chicken, fish, or any other meat than to eat ultra-processed, plant-based food, which will have the same health hazard. We have an extensive literature that points to this,” Raquel says.


This comparison also applies to vegetable and animal nuggets. According to nutritionist Gabriela Silla, in this case, none of them are considered healthy or a good option.

“The problem with animal nuggets is the amount of fat they contain, because it is an ultra-processed product consisting of crushed cartilage, skin, bones, muscles and even meat. Nutritionally, it will have more animal fat, higher cholesterol, and more sodium. There is simply no cholesterol in a vegetable product, because the rest, in terms of preservatives, will be basically the same,” he explains.

If the exchange does not represent a nutritional benefit, it is also not very effective in stopping environmental impact, as Raquel points out.

“There is a lot of controversy that the ultra-processing industry is the same as animal husbandry, so there are a number of other environmental issues associated with the production of ultra-processed products that are detrimental to the environment. So share food in naturemeat, for example, ultra-processed foods, is not a big advantage,” he says.


When is an exchange useful?

For those who want to stop eating meat or simply cut down on their consumption, experts recommend betting on home-cooked foods made from natural, protein-rich ingredients.

“I always recommend, for example, a homemade chickpea burger or shimeji, [um prato feito] with eggplant or zucchini, quinoa. For those who want to try Lenten Monday [movimento que propõe a redução do consumo de proteína animal] and during the week, vegetable meat helps to consume products that are not produced industrially, but for the routine it is more correct to cook it at home,” emphasizes Gabriela.

In addition, there is a wide variety of protein-rich plant foods that can meet the needs of the body without being affected by meat consumption. According to Raquel Canuto, rice and beans, a traditional combination in the Brazilian diet, is an example of a food that does not require animal protein.

“Beans can be a good vegetable source of iron, the nutrient found most in red meat, and we have a very large variety of beans in Brazil. There are lentils, which are slightly more expensive than legumes, but also cheaper compared to meat, peas themselves are a good option. If you are not a strict vegetarian, then you can easily replace meat with eggs, milk, cheese, which will also help to make a diet so that nothing is lost, ”he explains.

Raquel also notes that, with the exception of vitamin B12 deficiency, there are no other health risks associated with cutting out meat. “On the contrary, we know that if a person stops eating meat and can eat a healthy diet, they will have improved cardiovascular health, even something in relation to obesity and diabetes.”


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