Why You Should Think Twice About Eating Processed Plant-Based Meats

As more and more consumers look for vegan and vegetarian options, plant-based meats have filled a void on supermarket shelves. People who avoid meat usually have strong opinions about whether or not plant-based options such as veggie burgers taste as good as the real thing, but their nutritional value — plastered right on the label — isn’t up for debate.

Eating a plant-based diet can help lower carbon emissions and reduce your environmental footprint, making it an ideal option for those looking to conserve natural resources. However, when you grab soy substitutes and other plant-based meats, you may be consuming an unnatural amount of chemicals. Margie Saidel, RD, LDN, MPH — vice president of nutrition and sustainability for Chartwells K12 — tells Real Simple that, “Plant-based meats are more popular and accessible than ever, which is great news because a reduction in industrial meat production is a win for the environment. But these processed meat alternatives may not, however, always be a healthier alternative.”

The outlet cites higher content in fat, sugar, and salt that may be to blame when it comes to the fewer number of health benefits of certain plant-based meats. It’s best to consult the food label and read the ingredient list to ensure that you aren’t consuming a slew of chemicals, sugars, and other additives which can be difficult to digest.

It's best to avoid processed foods in general

Food companies have responded to consumers’ desire for greater ease when it comes to their meal options. Essentially, by processing the items at the factory, they eliminate the need for you to prepare them in your kitchen. Unfortunately, in order to prolong the shelf life of these foods and to make them tasty, they have to add various preservatives and sweeteners. One Green Planet labels plant-based meats as highly processed products, meaning that they hold a large amount of additives and concentrates that many have trouble digesting. 

High levels of saturated fat and sodium characterize these types of meats, the outlet also notes. While some are made with pure vegetables, the high levels of processing can undermine the integrity of the nutrients from the beans, grains, or soy that the meat is made from. The healthy compounds can lose their nutrient value after being processed and drowned in preservatives and chemicals, the outlet notes.

It’s best to look for plant-based options that are made from whole foods, with little additives. As always, checking the nutrition label before you add products to your cart can make a big difference in the way your body feels and your health later in life.

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