Plant-Based Meat Alternatives Lack ‘Vital’ Nutrition Found In Real Meat

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No matter how many sketchy additives the folks behind plant-based meat stuff into their burgers to imitate real meat, their patties are not as nutritious as the real deal. 

Researchers at Duke University found plant-based meat alternatives were missing key metabolites found in real meat. (Metabolites are the small nutrients found in foods.) The study included 36 food samples: 18 popular plant-based meat alternatives and 18 ground beef samples sourced from a ranch in Idaho. 

The study revealed that beef had 22 additional metabolites that were not found in plant-based alternatives. Among the nutrients missing from plant-based alternatives are metabolites essential to human life and brain development including anserine, cysteamine, glucosamine, squalene, and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.

The plant-based alternatives attempted to match the nutrients found in beef by adding vitamin B-12 and zinc, but the meatless patties couldn’t measure up when it came to the other essential nutrients. Stephan van Vliet, a postdoctoral researcher at the Duke Molecular Physiology, said it is possible for vegans to live a healthy life without meat, but noted that the missing nutrients play an important role in proper brain and muscle development. 

“These nutrients are important for our brain and other organs including our muscles,” van Vliet said, later adding, “To consumers reading nutritional labels, they may appear nutritionally interchangeable. But if you peek behind the curtain using metabolomics and look at expanded nutritional profiles, we found that there are large differences between meat and a plant-based meat alternative.”

Van Vliet explained that the best diets incorporate both meat and vegetables because the two food groups provide “complimentary” nutrients to consumers. He said real meat and its alternatives “should not be viewed as nutritionally interchangeable.”

Dietitians and nutritionists have also noted that fake meat typically has the same amount of calories and fat, and more sodium, than real meat.