You absorb less protein from plant-based meat than from chicken: Research

Plant-based meat is all the rage as it provides an alternative source of protein to vegetarians and satiates the curiosity of people who always wanted to relish meat. Those who are fond of plant-based faux meat or are dependent on it for their daily requirement of protein are in for a surprise.

New research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, has found proteins in plant-based meat were not as accessible to cells as those from the real meat. Lab tests have shown that proteins in substitutes do not break down into peptides as well as those from meats.

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The researchers created a model meat alternative made of soy and wheat gluten with the extrusion process. When cut open, the material had long fibrous pieces inside, just like chicken. Cooked pieces of the substitute and chicken meat were then ground up and broken down with an enzyme that humans use to digest food. In vitro tests showed meat-substitute peptides were less water-soluble than those from chicken, and they also were not absorbed as well by human cells. With this new understanding, the researchers say the next step is to identify other ingredients that could help boost the peptide uptake of plant-based meat substitutes.

Is plant-based meat healthy?

Plant-based meat is often thought of as being healthier than animal meats, because the plants used to make them are rich in protein and low in undesirable fats. To mimic the look and texture of the real meat, plants are dehydrated into a powder and mixed with seasonings. Then, the mixtures are typically heated, moistened and processed through an extruder.

“Plant-based meat is healthier than real meat as it is low in calories and saturated fats. Besides, it contains coconut oil, vegetable protein extract, and beet juice,” Neha Pathania, senior dietician, Paras Hospitals, said.

According to her, faux meat helps in lowering the risk of cardiovascular ailments, inflammation, and cancer. Also, it improves digestion, gut microbiome, bowel movement and helps in weight loss.

However, she was quick to point out the disadvantages. “It is less nutritious and may not contain omega 3 fatty acids, protein, and other elements that are abundant in animal meat,” she said.

Moreover, faux meat is highly processed and loaded with additives including artificial flavours, colours, and other chemicals, which are used to make the meat tastier and look real. She suggested vegetarians include grains, pulses, dairy products, eggs, soya, and tofu in their diet to get protein.

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