Plant-based meats: are they the future of staying healthy and building muscle, all while being better to animals and the earth? Could they be the way to living healthier lifestyles and still getting to enjoy a burger?
Well, people are becoming more and more keen to find alternatives to eating meat every year, and plant-based meats are a popular choice.
Plant-based meat companies are blowing up
We’ve all had a veggie burger, but new plant-based meats are trying their hardest to taste like, feel like, and substitute real meat in all kinds of meals.
From sausages to steaks — plant-based meats now come in all shapes and sizes. It feels like every week there’s a new plant-based meat on the supermarket shelves, so these companies seem to be exploding out of nowhere.
What’s the future like for these companies though?
By 2026 it’s predicted that the plant-based meats market will be worth $6.5 billion.
So, it’s looking quite good. Using ingredients like beans, quinoa, pea and soy proteins, they make non-meat products actually taste like meat. What’s not to love?
Cook up a burger with none of the guilt. In the end though, whether or not plant-based meats are the future comes down to other things — like the taste.
How do plant-based meats taste?
The first thing most of us think about when putting something on our plate — is it good in our mouths? Do plant-based meats actually taste anything like real meat?
This is a major reason why people don’t try plant-based or vegan meats to begin with: they’re worried about the taste. In an IFIC survey asking people who eat plant-based meats, 53% said their favourite thing about plant-based meats was the good taste. 35% said it was the meat-like texture.
We know by now that everyone’s tastes and preferences are different, so we can’t speak for everyone, but to be doing so well, most of them must taste pretty good, right? To find out if you like it, you’ll need to try some yourself.
Are they a good source of protein?
Here’s what we all want to know: will eating plants destroy my progress in the gym?
One big concern for people is how it’ll affect their muscle growth and fitness routine. Because as we know, protein is huge for muscle growth.
Beyond Meat’s burgers claim >20g of protein per serving (just like our whey isolate). However, one good thing about real meat and whey is that they are complete proteins: they contain enough of all the 9 essential amino acids we need and so are optimal for muscle growth.
Plant-based meats usually either use plant protein from sources such as pea or soy beans. If the plant-based meat uses soy, then it also contains enough of all 9 essential amino acids to be considered complete proteins, so it’s got you for muscle growth.
If it’s using pea protein though (like Beyond Meat’s) then it doesn’t contain enough of 2 of the 9 essential amino acids: methionine and cysteine. For this reason, you might need to get those amino acids from other foods. A quinoa side salad topped with nuts and seeds will do the job.
You just need to check the ingredients to find out what kind of protein your plant-based meat uses and how much protein you’re getting. Because plant-based proteins can rival meat in being a solid protein source, you can count on them to help you build muscle.
Are plants better than meat for your health?
Although we would think plant-based meats are healthier because, well, they’re from plants — is that actually true?
The reality is, lots of plant-based meats aren’t made from vegetables. If the meat is made from processing soy, you might find that other ingredients have been added.
That’s maybe the biggest problem for plant-based meats’ health profile: it is processed food. Some may have additives and emulsifiers added — check the ingredients to be sure.
Unfortunately the jury is still out on how healthy plant-based meats are. Like everything, you just need to look at the packet, include them in a balanced diet, and eat other amazing home-cooked vegan recipes too.
Actually good for the earth?
Meat production is one of the worst CO2 contributors in the world. So, stamping down on it is nothing but a good thing for mother nature.
A 2018 study by Beyond Meat and the University of Michigan found their meat takes 46% less energy to produce and uses 93% less land than normal meat.1 The Beyond Burger creates 90% less greenhouse gas. So, according to them, plant-based meats are good for the earth.
This is a really strong argument for plant-based meat being the future: as we move towards a greener world, plant-based meats could be the eco-friendly option of what we eat.
Take Home Message
Plant-based meats are futuristic for sure. Are they the future though? Well they seem to be great for the environment and can be good for muscle building too. For our overall health, we might just need to wait and see.
If you’re worried about eating too many processed foods (and real meats) though, use your own plant-based and vegan alternatives at home. Then you’re ticking all the right boxes.