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Mock meat, is it really a better option?

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On your trips to your local supermarket, I bet you’ve noticed plant-based takes on burgers, sausages, meatballs and chicken strips taking space in an aisle: entirely vegan products designed to mimic the taste, texture and appearance of a specific animal-based food.
Given the wild boom in the popularity of these products – as well as the focus on eating a plant-based diet – you might be wondering if they’re any better for you?
Well, good news is that a new study has began to untangle this seemingly simple, yet scientifically complex question.

 

  • WHAT DID THEY DO: Researchers compared the nutritional profiles of a popular plant-based meat alternative with grass-fed ground beef.
 
  • WHAT DID THEY FIND: Despite both foods’ Nutrition Facts panels being similar in terms of protein, fat and calories, the research showed that 90% of the chemicals that made up the food (171 out of 190) were different. In terms of the ‘beneficial’ chemicals, some were only in the meat (e.g. DHA omega 3), and some were only in the mock meats (e.g. specific tocopherols, which are the major forms of vitamin E).
 
  • TAKEHOME: Food is complex. We shouldn’t be determining whether meat or mock meat is better than the other by looking at the nutrition panel i.e. fat, protein and cals etc., it does not give us a full picture of a food’s true make-up. We need the human intervention studies, and so far they suggest that is more about your holistic diet i.e. what % of meat or % ultra processed foods you’re feeding your microbes. One tiny study suggested that some of these mock meats may reduce microbial diversity – but that deserves it’s own post as so many caveats!