To put it simply, plant-based meat is meat made from plants. It is created and manufactured to appear, feel, and taste like conventional meat from animal products.
There are multiple forms of this veggie-based alternative, such as nuggets, sausage, burger patties, and much more. But not all plant-based meats are made the same.
Some of the most common ingredients in plant-based meat are the following:
vegetable protein, vital wheat gluten or seitan, coconut oil, beans, spices, soy, beet juice extract and rice.
Regular meats are mass-produced in animal agriculture, as compared to plant-based meats which are developed on a way smaller scale, which makes it more pricey. Plant-based meats also contain a variety of whole foods, such as produce and spices, which are generally more expensive. Therefore, Plant-based meat is usually more expensive compared to the same quantity of animal-based meat.
Photo credit to Marco Verch / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode
Is plant-based meat healthy?
Yes, plant-based meats are generally healthy when eaten in moderation and as part of a balanced diet – a healthier option compared to meat
For context, here is the nutritional breakdown of regular meat compared to their most popular plant-based alternative:
Plant-based meat vs. beef
What the research says: A small 2020 study examined the health effects of plant-based meats versus animal meat. Researchers found participants who ate at least two servings of plant-based meat for eight weeks lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease compared to participants who ate the same amount of animal meat — primarily beef and pork — for the same duration.
Red meat, in particular, is tied to an increased risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Processed meats like sausage, bacon, and hot dogs also increase the risk of stomach and bowel cancers.
However, plant-based meats are far from perfect. “They typically have higher amounts of sodium, usually in an attempt to make it more palatable and shelf-stable. Too much sodium can cause adverse health effects, including high blood pressure and stroke.
Plant-based meats are also highly processed and filled with less healthy ingredients such as refined coconut oil and modified food starch. Research from the National Institutes of Health suggests that processed foods cause people to consume an extra 500 calories a day and ultimately gain more weight.
Plant-based meats can fit into a healthy diet when eaten in moderation no more than a couple times a week, but do not make it your only source of protein.