Plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy are good for health and the environment

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Research suggests that plant-based meat can benefit our health and the environment. Image credit: Bloomberg Creative/Getty Images.
  • Alternative meat and plant-based dairy markets have exploded in popularity over the past few years.
  • Researchers at the University of Bath have found evidence to suggest that these products are better for our health and for the environment.
  • Today’s plant-based alternatives may be easier to embrace when looking for vegetarian options.

Plant-based meat and dairy products are growing industries.

Experts valued the global plant-based meat market at more than $5 billion last year, with forecasts predicting a 19% increase from 2022 to 2030.

And the plant-based dairy alternatives market would have totaled $11 billion in 2020 with projections to reach $32 million in 2031.

Now a new study from the University of Bath indicates that plant-based meat and dairy products are both better for human health and the environment.

The new study recently appeared in the journal Foods of the future.

Meat alternatives first appeared in the 1960s and they were made from soybeans. Later, alternatives made of textured vegetable protein (TVP) was also on the marker.

Today’s plant-based meat substitutes use ingredients like soy, pea protein, oils, potato starch, and various binders and flavorings to closely imitate the texture and taste of real meat.

Plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk dairy products started much earlier, with the first report of soy milk in China about 2,000 years ago.

Although soy milk products continue to be popular, they now share store shelves with dairy alternatives made from oats, rice, almonds, hemp and coconut.

And today’s alternative dairy products have evolved from a simple milk-type drink to alternatives to yogurt, butter, cheeses and ice cream.

For the study, Dr. Bryant and his team looked at 43 studies that looked at the health and environmental factors of plant-based meat and dairy substitutes. The researchers also looked at consumer attitudes towards plant-based foods.

Based on their research, the team found that 90% of consumers who ate plant-based meat and dairy products followed a flexitarian diet, which allows moderate consumption of animal meat.

The researchers also found that people tended to choose plant-based meat products that were similar in taste, texture, and price to real meat.

“Plant-based meat is an easy and convenient way to directly replace meat in familiar dishes, making it easier to eat whole plant foods only for people who want to eat less meat,” said Dr. Chris Bryant, Honorary Research Associate for the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, research consultant to Bryant Research Ltd and lead author of this study, said Medical News Today.

“If you can still have a burger or bolognese without having to come up with whole new plant-based dishes, that makes it a lot easier and, for a lot of people, more enjoyable,” he added.

According to Dr. Bryant, the purpose of this study was to investigate the healthiness and environmental sustainability of plant-based animal product alternatives.

“There seems to be a lot of misinformation on this subject and misconceptions based on the idea that these products are ‘processed’ or ‘unnatural,'” Dr. Bryant said. DTM.

“Many people may have a hunch that this means these products are unhealthy or bad for the environment, but as the study showed, the evidence suggests otherwise. In fact, alternatives to animal-based products plants are healthier and more environmentally sustainable than the animal products they replace,” he explained.

Researchers have reported evidence that plant-based dairy and meat products help reduce greenhouse gas emissionsrequire less water and landand produce less pollution than animal products.

And Dr. Bryant’s team found that not only were herbal alternatives valid options for weight loss and building the musclebut they offered a simpler option for adding ingredients to provide additional health benefits, such as amino acids, vitamins, and antioxidants.

“Based on this review of the evidence, alternatives to plant-based animal products tend to be healthier than animal products,” Dr. Bryant noted.

“In particular,” he clarified, “overweight patients may benefit from switching from chicken to mycoprotein, which will increase their fiber intake, increase satiety with fewer calories, and decrease insulin response. “.

“Alternatives to plant-based animal products may also help lower cholesterol and provide gut health benefits,” he continued. “Making these simple changes can have substantial health benefits.”

DTM also spoke about this study with Lauren Sepe, clinical nutritionist and in-house nutritionist at the Kellman Wellness Center in New York.

Sepe said many of the points raised in the study regarding health and environmental issues surrounding animal meat are general concerns, so she cautioned from a nutritional perspective that plant-based meat substitutes d are a ‘mixed bag’ due to some of the less healthy ingredients they may contain.

“Some of the ingredients in these alternatives are questionable, and in large amounts it may not be the healthiest choice,” she explained.

“That being said, for people looking for the experience of eating a burger, without eating meat, this is a good occasional option. I don’t recommend them as a staple in their diet because although people see plant-based foods as healthier options, many are still highly processed, so you need to be selective in your choices,” Sepe warned. .

She added that while these types of foods certainly have a role to play in providing people with plant-based options as an alternative to meat options, more research is needed on the overall health of these foods produced in China. laboratory.

“I love that this study highlights the detrimental conditions of these farms and the environmental impacts, but it leaves out the option of small local farms, which is really a completely different category of feedlot animals. conventional,” she said.

“Some plant-based products are better than others. Switching a customer from a highly processed meat option to a highly processed plant-based option may not be a better option. I see a lot of these products as good occasional substitutes and as a stepping stone to healthier plant-based options for some people.

–Lauren Sepe

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