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How nutritious are meat substitutes really? Image credit: Juan Moyano/Stocksy.
  • Vegetarian meals that include meat substitutes are becoming more popular.
  • Researchers are still working to understand the pros and cons of including meat substitutes in the diet.
  • A recent study looked at the value of certain nutrients in meat substitutes. The results of the study suggest that meat substitutes may not be good sources of iron or zinc.

Many people are moving to plant-based diets for health and environmental reasons. Some of these foods include meat substitutes that mimic the texture and taste of traditional meat products.

A recent study by Nutritious foods He looked at several aspects of the nutritional value of popular meat substitutes.

The researchers found that meat substitutes may be poor sources of iron and many provide insufficient zinc.

Protein It is an essential nutrient for human nutrition, but there are many options when it comes to protein sources.

Animal protein sources such as chicken, fish or beef are available. People who don’t eat meat can get protein from sources like beans, seeds, and lentils to meet their protein needs.

These can have plant-based foods Many benefitsIncluding health improvements and environmental friendliness.

To appeal to this market, manufacturers have worked on developing meat substitutes. These options are similar to meat, but are from plant sources. Examples of meat substitutes include tofu, tempeh, and seitan.

As some meat substitutes become more popular, researchers continue to study their benefits and overall nutritional value.

This particular study looked at the nutritional value of 44 meat substitutes, looking at nutrients such as fiber, fat, protein and salt content.

They also looked at the bioavailability of zinc and iron substitutes. Animal products such as meat and seafood are good sources Zinc and iron, making it important to study how meat substitutes compare.

Although meat substitutes may contain iron and zinc, the body cannot always use them due to a compound called phytate. Phytate interferes with the body’s ability to absorb iron and zinc and is present in many meat substitutes.

Study author Inger-Cecilia Mayer Laba, who is pursuing her doctorate at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, explained. Medical news today “Phytate accumulates during the extraction of plant proteins used in the production of conventional meat substitutes” and “has been known for decades to have an inhibitory effect on the absorption of very low levels of iron.”

Researchers have found wide differences in the nutritional value between products. Regarding the nutrient zinc, most meat substitutes do not contain enough to be considered an adequate source.

The main differences were mycoprotein products from fungi. The findings of this study suggest that mycoprotein products can be a good source of zinc.

Still, the authors of the study “”[d]But the thickening of the fungal cell walls can be an aggravating factor.

In terms of iron, all studied meat substitutes were insufficient sources of iron. The main exception was tempeh, which was close to the “nutrition claim level”.

Meyer Laba noted that the key findings of the study were as follows.

“Currently, the most common raw material for meat substitutes, based on vegetable protein extracts, meat substitutes such as sausages, balls and burgers have very low bioavailability of minerals such as iron and zinc. This is because the concentration of the antioxidant phytate during protein extraction is very high. Iron is also stored in the process, but cannot be absorbed due to the presence of phytate.

She went on to explain: “Reinforced steel is affected in the same negative way as native steel. Although such products may have a nutritional claim on iron, it is not available in form [to] Part of what makes it difficult for consumers.”

The research shows that more precision is needed to understand the nutritional value of meat substitutes. It points to the importance of producer integrity regarding nutrients such as iron that are supposed to be found in meat substitutes.

People who want to switch to a plant-based diet can work with their doctors and other nutritionists to make sure it meets their nutritional needs.

The results of the study suggest that people who eat plant-based foods should use iron instead of meat.

However, Christine Carley, registered dietitian and owner of Camelback Nutrition and Wellness, questions some of the findings of this study. She commented. MNT:

“This study suggests that ‘meat substitutes’ are not as nutritious as meat. However, one clinical implication that this study overlooks is that people, regardless of their diet, do not get all of their food from meat/meat substitute sources alone. Omnivores eat meat but eat a variety of foods that contain iron, zinc, and protein. The same goes for vegetarians.

“It is to be expected that these nutrients can be found in other foods. “Also, many vegetarians don’t eat meat substitutes and instead look for other forms of plant protein, like beans or quinoa,” she says.

“If you’re transitioning to a plant-based diet, you don’t have to rely on meat substitutes to meet all your nutritional needs,” says Carly.

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