The first 20 years of the 21st century have drastically changed the world in many aspects. People have understood the importance of having a healthy, sustainable, and an environment-friendly lifestyle. Countries have started reducing their dependence on oil, plastics, and toxic chemical-based products. People have started adopting protein-rich, fat-free diet to order to boost their immunity. All in all, there has been an increase in awareness regarding both- a need to have a healthy life and the need to protect the environment from degradation. Shift from consumption of meat to plant based meat alternatives has been a result of this growing awareness.

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Scientists and research-oriented environmental activists, since the start of the millennium having been pointing out the effect of meat consumption on the environment. Beef, lamb, pork, and other types of poultry products have proved to be great emitters of greenhouse gases, thereby increasing the carbon footprint of the planet and contributing in climate change. As a result, in the past few years, the idea of meat alternatives of plant origin has gained a lot of popularity among the masses. However, just like any idea, this one too has been challenged by some experts over the issue of nutritive value of these crop-based meat alternatives and whether plant based meat alternatives are really healthy.

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Pros and Cons of Plant Based Meat Alternatives

The plant based meat market has grown so substantially in the last few years that there are alternatives for almost every meat product including beef, chicken, pork, etc. However, some experts and dieticians are skeptical about the real benefits these alternatives provide. As a result, a debate has opened up about the pros and cons with respect to the consumption of plant or vegetable-based meat alternatives. Given here are some of these pros and cons, both from the health and environmental perspective:

Pros:

  • Plant based meat alternatives contain high amount of fiber and natural phytochemicals which are in minimal amounts in actual meat products. Consumption of plant based meat products, thus, help in intake of fibers which are extremely essential for metabolism.
     
  • Research on the health effects of replacing actual meat with plant based meat products has shown a considerable decrease in incidence of coronary heart disease and other heart-related ailments. Health experts have attributed this to the low intake of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or bad cholesterol through vegetable-based meat.
     
  • Production of plant based meat products occupy much less land than what is required for production of actual meat products.
     
  • Emission of greenhouse gases is negligible from crop-based meat alternatives as compared to actual meat products.

Cons:

  • Crop-based meat alternatives have high content of additives and food colorings which can prove to be harmful for human health.
     
  • Though many other ingredients of crop-based meat alternatives have a good effect on heart, the high sodium content of these products can prove to be detrimental for overall body health.
     
  • Health experts opine that the amount of processing that these plant based meat products undergo removes all the necessary nutrients from them, defeating the very purpose for which they were invented.
     
  • Meat alternatives of plant origin have high content of coconut or palm oils which make them unfit for consumption for many people who are allergic or sensitive to these oils.

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The Bottom Line

Plant based meat and its products have taken the world by a storm. Multinational fast-food chains like McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell have started adopting vegetable-based meat products. The growing demand for these alternatives is also due to the increase in consumption of these products by people who don’t consume meat due to their religious and cultural beliefs. Additionally, curiosity with respect to the taste of plant based meat alternatives have also triggered a growth in this industry. However, a look at these advantages and disadvantages of plant based meat alternatives shows that, what looked like a panacea might not prove to be one. As of today, major players of the food industry have invested heavily in the research and development of crop-based meat products. Addressing the issues with respect to these alternatives will go a long way in creating a healthy, sustainable, and eco-friendly planet.

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