Meat can’t be beat.
So say scientists who argue plant-based meat alternatives simply can’t measure up in terms of nutritional components.
Duke University researchers compared 36 food samples — 18 widely known plant-based meat alternatives to 18 grass-fed ground beef options from an Idaho ranch. For each sample, the number of metabolites, small molecules that make up the nutrients in foods, were measured.
The study, published in the Scientific Reports journal, found the beef contained 22 metabolites that were not found in the plant-based substitutes. The plant-based meat, meanwhile, contained 31 metabolites that were not found in the meat. Researchers found the largest disparities were in vitamins, amino acids and types of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids found in both food products among other variables.
Alternative meat, which has grown in popularity in the past few years, mimics the look, taste and texture of meat. Additionally, some alternative products contain vitamins such as B12 to create a similar nutritional profile to genuine meat.
However, the study found that several metabolites proven to be vital to human health were discovered either exclusively or in greater amounts of beef, researchers said.
“These nutrients are important for our brain and other organs including our muscles,” postdoctoral researcher at the Duke Molecular Physiology, Stephan van Vliet, said in a statement. “But some people on vegan diets (no animal products), can live healthy lives — that’s very clear.”