A new study led by the University of Bath has found that plant-based dietary alternatives to animal products are better for human health and the environment than the meat products they are designed to replace.
According to experts, plant-based meat and dairy alternatives “offer a healthier and more environmentally sustainable solution that takes into account consumer preferences and behavior.” Also, since they were created specifically to replicate the taste, texture, and overall eating experience of animal products, they are a much more effective way to reduce demand for meat and dairy than simply encouraging people to eat vegetarian meals.
Examining 43 studies focused on the health and environmental impact of plant-based foods, scientists found that these products tend to have better nutritional profiles than animal products and are highly beneficial for weight loss, muscle building and improve overall health.
Additionally, since producers can add ingredients such as edible mushrooms, microalgae, or spirulina to plant-based foods, they can increase the amounts of amino acids, antioxidants, and vitamins B and E in these products, thus further improving their nutritional profile.
Plant-based products were also found to cause lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than animals, while generally requiring less agricultural land and water, and causing less pollution than animal products. Therefore, increasing the use of such products will not only have important health benefits, but will also help combat climate change by protecting the environment.
“We are increasingly seeing how plant-based products can shift demand away from animal-based products by appealing to three essential elements that consumers want: taste, price and convenience. This review demonstrates overwhelming evidence that, in addition to being far more sustainable compared to animal products in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and land use, plant-based animal product alternatives also have a wide range of health benefits,” the study said. author Christopher Bryant, a psychologist at the University of Bath.
“Despite the incredible advances plant-based producers have made in recent years, there is still great potential to improve their taste, texture and how they are cooked. There is also huge potential to innovate with ingredients and processes to improve their nutritional properties, for example by increasing the vitamin content.”
More research is needed to make these improvements a reality and ensure that manufacturers can make tastier, healthier products that provide consumers with sustainable options that are more likely to reduce demand for animal products.
The study is published in the journal future foods.
By Andrey Ionescu, Earth.com staff writer