Plant-based dietary alternatives to animal products are better for human health and environment when compared with the animal products, according to a latest study by researchers at University of Bath.
Plant-based meat are ‘specifically formulated to replicate the taste, texture, and overall eating experience of animal products’, said the study published in Future Foods . The researchers further said that these supplements are much more effective way of reducing demand for meat and dairy than simply encouraging people to cook vegetarian whole foods.
PLANT-BASED MEAT: METHOD
The researchers analysed 43 studies into the health and environmental impacts of plant-based foods. They also looked into consumer attitudes. In one study, they found that almost 90 per cent of consumers who ate plant-based meat and dairy were in fact meat-eaters or flexitarians; another found that plant-based products with a similar taste, texture, and price to processed meat had the best chance of replacing meat.
The Researchers also mention that plant-based products led to lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than the animal products. In one of the papers, they came across the finding that replacing five per cent of German beef consumption with pea protein could reduce CO2 emissions by up to eight million tonnes a year. Another found that compared to beef burgers, plant-based burgers were associated with up to 98 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions.
PLANT-BASED MEAT; LESS NEEDS AND MUCH NUTRITION
The report also notes that plant-based products generally require much less agricultural land, need less water and cause less pollution than animal products.
In the study that looked at healthiness of plant-based products, the researchers found that these plant based supplements have better nutritional profiles compared to animal products, with one paper finding that 40 per cent of conventional meat products were classified as ‘less healthy’ compared to just 14 per cent of plant-based alternatives based on the UK’s Nutrient Profiling Model.
They also found that plant-based meat and dairy were good for weight loss and building muscle mass> they said that it could be used to help people with specific health conditions.
Author, Dr Chris Bryantpointed out how plant-based products are able to shift demand away from animal products by appealing to three essential elements consumers want: taste, price and convenience.
“This review demonstrates overwhelming evidence that, as well as being far more sustainable compared to animal products in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use and land use, plant-based animal product alternatives also have a wide range of health benefits.
“Despite the incredible advances that plant-based producers have made over recent years, there is still huge potential to improve their taste, texture and how they cook. There’s also enormous potential to innovate with ingredients and processes to improve their nutritional properties – for example by boosting vitamin content,” Dr Chris Bryant said.
The authors stress that, whilst there are health benefits of these products compared to meat, multiple personal factors will impact on health including overall calorie consumption and exercise/activity levels. People wishing to transition towards more plant-based products and vegetarian / vegan diets can find more information via the NHS: The vegetarian diet – NHS (www.nhs.uk) + The vegan diet – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Dr Bryant suggests that more research will now be needed to make these improvements a reality, ensuring manufacturers can make products that taste better, are healthier and provide consumers with sustainable options that are more likely to reduce demand for meat.