If you’ve been looking for a quick and easy way to make your meals healthier, then you might want to eat one particular kind of meat. Or rather, a plant-based meat alternative. Not only is it relatively simple to swap animal meat with plant-based meat, but a study has now found meat that doesn’t come from cows, chickens, pigs, and other live creatures is a healthier option.
In the study that was published in the journal Future Foods, a team from the University of Bath took a look at 43 other studies that focused on plant-based meat alternatives as well as plant-based dairy alternatives. The findings showed that eating plant-based meat resulted in weight loss and increased muscle while also adding additional amino acids, vitamins, and antioxidants into the diet which all offer valuable benefits for the body.
The lead author of the study Dr. Chris Bryant, honorary research associate for the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, and research consultant through Bryant Research Limited, told Medical News Today, “In particular, overweight patients can benefit from switching from chicken to mycoprotein, which will increase their fiber intake, increase satiety with fewer calories, and decrease insulin response.”
“Plant-based animal product alternatives can also help lower cholesterol, and provide benefits for gut health,” Bryant added, while noting that “[m]aking these simple switches can have substantial health benefits.”
Plant vs. animal meat
When it comes why to plant-based meat can be a healthier option, Connie Diekman, M.Ed, RD, CSSD, LD, FADA, FAND, tells Eat This, Not That! that “animal protein is a source of saturated fat, which is a contributor to heart disease.” She notes that “shifting from animal protein can help lower the intake of saturated fats, thus helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Beyond that, Diekman says, “If plant-based meats retain some of the plant fiber, this would be a plus since animal protein does not contain fiber. The third potential benefit is satiety. Plant foods generally take longer to eat and digest, helping people feel full longer.”
How to eat more plant-based meat
If you would like to start incorporating plant-based meats into your diet, Diekman has a few suggestions that can help you find the best options.
First, Diekman says to “check the list of ingredients to make sure that the plant protein is within the first three ingredients.”
Next, you’ll want to “look at the protein content—1 ounce of animal protein is about 7 grams of protein, how does the plant-based food compare? Also, check the sodium since processed foods often contain more salt—you can also look for sodium or salt in the list of ingredients.”
“Finally, check the fat content, and the source, since fat is often added to boost flavor—no point in reducing saturated fats if you boost total fat intake,” Diekman says. “Remember that coconut oil and palm oil are plant fats that are high in saturated fat.”