Until a decade ago, a veggie burger was not an appetizing option. Today, meats of plant origin invade supermarkets, restaurants, and even fast food outlets. Their success is such that it appeals not only to vegetarians and vegans, but also to carnivores. Some of these steaks are increasingly mimicking the appearance, taste and texture of meat. Others rather claim the status of “vegetable and cereal pancake”.
The many studies that have pointed out the harmful effects of red meat and processed meat on our health, as well as the benefits of products made from vegetables and cereals, participated in the democratization of vegetarian steaks. But the experts are not completely convinced, explains the site She knows. If they feel that these new steaks mimic meat better than the bland veggie steaks of the past, they warn against overconsumption that is not always desirable.
Vegetable steak: it is a processed product
Indeed, steaks from industrial vegetables and cereals remain a processed product. Some manufacturers use ingredients like protein for weight, which is difficult to digest, and much more sodium than what is found in a piece of meat. Recent studies have shown that consuming ultra-processed foods leads to significant weight gain, affects the gut microbiome, and therefore decreases immune defenses.
Vegetable meat and real meat are not nutritionally equivalent
The items listed on their labels make them appear essentially equivalent, but on closer inspection, these “vegetable meats” are they nutritionally suitable substitutes for animal meat? A study by researchers at Duke University shows that contrary to popular belief, the composition of these two types of meat would be quite remote. They were interested in one element: metabolites,building blocks of the body’s biochemistry essential for energy conversion, inter-cell function, and a host of other functions.
It is established that about half of the metabolites circulating in the blood come from the diet. “For consumers whoi read the labels, they may appear to be nutritionally interchangeable. “, Explains Prof. Stephan van Vliet who led the research” But we have found that there are several differences between meat and an alternative to meat herbal. The researchers compared 18 samples of plant-based meats to 18 samples of grass-fed beef from a ranch in Idaho, and their analysis found that 171 of the 190 metabolites considered varied between beef and the meat substitute.
Thus, beef contained 22 metabolites that the vegetable substitute did not have while the latter contained 31 metabolites that meat did not have. The biggest distinctions were in amino acids, vitamins, phenols, and the types of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Importantly, metabolites known to be important for health have been found exclusively or in greater quantities in the beef. This is particularly the case of creatine, cysteamine, glucosamine, squalene and a type of omega-3 fatty acid (DHA). But it turns out that the alternative meat also contained metabolites that weren’t found in beef, the phytosterols and phenols. Conclusion: No product is better than the other, it’s all about balance.
What are the benefits of vegetable steaks?
However, they have major advantages: their environmental impact is much less important than that generated by meat production, they allow to avoid animal suffering, and can serve as a transition for people who wish to adopt a vegetarian or flexitarian diet.
As with any industrial food, do not forget to read the label carefully, and consider them as a delicacy that should not be included on a regular basis in its menus. Whole foods, or processed as little as possible, are still the best option for staying healthy.