Study confirms that beef and its substitutes differ nutritionally
Given how meat-like some plant-based meat substitutes have become, it's understandable that many people are considering simply switching over to them. According to new research, however, the two food types are far from being nutritionally identical.
For the study, scientists from North Carolina's Duke University compared 18 samples of grass-fed ground beef to 18 samples of "a popular plant-based meat alternative." The latter's nutritional label listed 13 items – namely certain proteins, fats and vitamins – which are also abundant in meat.
That said, the researchers were specifically looking at the type and amount of metabolites that were present in each sample. Metabolites are substances produced via the regulatory processes in an organism's cells, and the consumption of certain ones has been linked to various health benefits.
When 36 cooked patties were compared – 18 made of beef, and 18 made of the substitute – it was found that out of 190 measured metabolites, concentrations of 171 differed considerably between the two foods. In fact, the beef patties contained 22 metabolites that the substitute did not, while the substitute patties contained 31 metabolites that weren't present in the beef.
Among the metabolites found in the beef were nutrients such as creatine, spermine, anserine, cysteamine, glucosamine, squalene and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. According to the scientists, these "have potentially important physiological, anti-inflammatory, and or immunomodulatory roles."
The substitute patties, meanwhile, were rich in phytosterols and phenols. Among other things, these metabolites are known to lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and have an antioxidant effect.
"We found that there are large differences between meat and a plant-based meat alternative," says the lead scientist, postdoctoral researcher Stephan van Vliet. "It is important for consumers to understand that these products should not be viewed as nutritionally interchangeable, but that’s not to say that one is better than the other."
The study is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Source: Duke University