Are Plant-Based Meat Replacements Better For You Than Real Meat?

Plant-based meat alternatives have become increasingly popular over the past few years; meat replacements which were once exclusively available at selected health stores are quickly becoming more readily available at local supermarkets across Australia, but are they actually better for you than real meat?
Posted on Dec 16, 2020 By Georgia Marr Georgia Marr

Vegans and vegetarians have been consuming plant-based meat replacements for years and now health enthusiasts who simply want to ensure they are receiving the nutrients they need are jumping on the plant-based bandwagon. But are plant-based meats actually good for you?

In an attempt to keep up with the high demand for plant-based meat replacements, Australian supermarkets have stocked their shelves with popular products for everyday health seekers to try at home. We have gone ahead and provided a list of meat-free products which can be found at your local Coles or Woolworths, along with an official health star rating to give you a better idea of where to start on your plant-based journey.

WoolworthsHealth Star RatingPrice
Made with plants - meat free bacon3.5 HSR$8.00
Unreal co. - Plant based beefy brat sausages4 HSR$5.00
V2 - Plant based burgers4.5 HSR$9.00
Made with plants - Meat free mince3 HSR$7.70
Plantein - Plant based Schnitzels3.5 HSR$7.50
ColesHealth Star RatingPrice
Next! - Plant based bacon strips-$7.50
The alternative meat co. - Plant based beefy sausages4 HSR$7.00
V2 - Plant based burgers4.5 HSR$9.00
Herb & Sons - Beef free mince3.5 HSR$7.50
Herb & Sons - Plant based chicken schnitzel2 HSR$8.00

Experts in healthy eating Food Frontier, recently completed a report outlining the health benefits of plant-based meats as well as comparing the overall health value to that of real meat, essentially answering the questions ‘is there any real difference?’ and ‘are plant-based meats actually good for us?’

The report found that many plant-based meats have higher protein levels, lower kilojoules and sodium content as well as lower fats and saturated fats. When compared to real meats, plant-based meats have also been found to hold health-promoting fibres contributing to a higher health star rating on average for plant-based meat replacements in five out of six categories including sausages, bacon and poultry. Interestingly, plant-based meats and real meats score the same health star rating in one category – mince; this is due to the fact that mince is less processed than other products such as bacon and sausages.

Nutritionists Valentina Duong and Sarah Appleford explain why plant-based meat products aren’t always necessarily the healthier option.

“…Lean meat can be part of a healthy diet and provide us with protein, iron, zinc, magnesium and B-vitamins.  On the other hand, plant-based products often are much higher in fibre and can be a good source of calcium, magnesium and iron. Individuals choose vegetarian diets for multiple reasons including health, ethical, environmental sustainability.” – Valentina Duong

“The majority of plant-based meats on the market are what I describe as Frankenstein foods filled with soy isolates, vegetable oils, stabilises and flavourings. They’re ultra-processed, offer very little nutritionally and made to resemble the taste and texture of the real meat. You’ve got to consider what these processed chemicals are actually doing to our bodies in the long-term.” – Sarah Appleford

While these plant-based meats are “ultra-processed” this doesn’t mean real meat is necessarily the answer to our health prayers. According to data from a 2019 OECD report, Aussies are binging on red meat, consuming 102% more than recommended by the most recent dietary guidelines. Not only are we over consuming red meat, but last year’s results reflected that 1/3 of an adults’ diet is comprised of non-lean and overly processed meats.

So, what if instead of replacing real meat with fake meat, we took a more natural approach to our diets? Our nutritionists explain why seeking out plant-based meals with minimal processing could be the key to healthy meat substitution.

“You can be a healthy vegan or vegetarian without the need for plant-based meats in your diet. If it’s a burger patty you’re after, enjoy a veggie burger made of whole food ingredients like chickpeas, lentils or beets. For protein, stick to a variety of fermented soy and tempeh. Eat your legumes, beans and seeds like hempseeds. Supplement with a quality pea or hempseed protein powder if you need. There is little need for plant-based meat products in a well-balanced healthy vegan or vegetarian diet.” – Sarah Appleford

“I encourage all my clients to include minimally processed plant-based sources of protein including tofu, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas and other beans. When it comes to plant-based substitutes, I think they’re a great option to include occasionally because they are often fortified in B12 and iron, which are nutrients that are often difficult to achieve adequate amounts on a vegetarian or vegan diet.” – Valentina Duong

It’s never been easier for health seekers to switch to a plant-based diet. Whether it be for ethical, sustainable or nutritional reasons, there is a plethora of delicious, meat-free options out there ready to be taste tested. So, why not give it a go?

Georgia Marr
Georgia Marr
Gold Coast based Journalist, entertainment writer and lover of a good story with a penchant for food and beverage writing.

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