Plant Based Diets Are Not “Nutritionally Interchangeable” With Animal Based Diets
Take it from a former vegan: meat rocks
A small study on the nutrient end-products (metabolites) of both plant and animal based meats finds significant differences in nutrient profiles, and suggests that plant-based alternatives to meat most likely require their own distinct nutritional guidelines to properly place their niche role in a healthy diet.
The study found that meat provided a comprehensive array of essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and more which were either completely absent in non-meat alternatives or found in significantly higher quantities in meat, while plant-based meat alternatives provided non-essential phenolic compounds and other non-essential plant-exclusive metabolites, mostly known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
I’ve always joked that eating a veggie burger was no different from eating a salad, and in truth this joke was right. Here’s an excerpt from the study abstract:
Despite apparent similarities based on Nutrition Facts panels, our metabolomics analysis found that metabolite abundances between the plant-based meat alternative and grass-fed ground beef differed by 90% (171 out of 190 profiled metabolites; false discovery rate adjusted p < 0.05). Several metabolites were found either exclusively (22 metabolites) or in greater quantities in beef (51 metabolites) (all, p < 0.05). Nutrients such as docosahexaenoic acid (ω-3), niacinamide (vitamin B3), glucosamine, hydroxyproline and the anti-oxidants allantoin, anserine, cysteamine, spermine, and squalene were amongst those only found in beef. Several other metabolites were found exclusively (31 metabolites) or in greater quantities (67 metabolites) in the plant-based meat alternative (all, p < 0.05). Ascorbate (vitamin C), phytosterols, and several phenolic anti-oxidants such as loganin, sulfurol, syringic acid, tyrosol, and vanillic acid were amongst those only found in the plant-based meat alternative. Large differences in metabolites within various nutrient classes (e.g., amino acids, dipeptides, vitamins, phenols, tocopherols, and fatty acids) with physiological, anti-inflammatory, and/or immunomodulatory roles indicate that these products should not be viewed as truly nutritionally interchangeable, but could be viewed as complementary in terms of provided nutrients.
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