Are Plant-Based Meats Healthier Than Animal Meat?



Understanding the Basics of Plant-Based Meats versus Animal Meat

Plant-based meats, also referred to as vegan or vegetarian meats, have seen a significant rise in popularity in recent years. These meat alternatives are developed from a variety of sources including soy, wheat, peas, and other plant-based proteins. The motivation behind the development and consumption of plant-based meats varies widely, with some citing environmental concerns such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and land use, ethical considerations regarding animal welfare, and personal health goals like lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

On the other side of the argument stands traditional animal meat, which has been consumed by humans for millennia. Animal meat, including poultry, beef, pork, and fish, is a common staple in many diets worldwide. The nutritional content of animal meat is widely understood and recognized for its high protein content essential for muscle building and repair, as well as essential vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 crucial for various bodily functions.

Comparing the Nutritional Content

When it comes to nutritional content, both plant-based meats and animal meats can provide substantial amounts of protein necessary for overall health and proper body function.

However, the type of protein varies considerably between the two sources. Animal proteins are considered complete proteins since they contain all nine essential amino acids required by the human body for optimal health. In contrast, plant-based proteins are typically incomplete and lack one or more of these essential amino acids, necessitating a diverse and balanced diet to ensure all nutrient needs are met in individuals primarily consuming plant-based meats.

Furthermore, certain nutrients and minerals such as vitamin B12, heme-iron, and omega-3 fatty acids are predominantly found in animal meats and are more readily absorbed by our bodies when compared to plant sources. These nutrients play vital roles in neurological functions, oxygen transport, and inflammation regulation.

Considering the Processed Food Perspective

Many plant-based meats currently available on the market are highly processed to mimic the taste, texture, and appearance of animal meats. They often contain a long list of ingredients including added sugars, fats, and preservatives to enhance flavor and mouthfeel. In contrast, traditional animal meats are typically single-ingredient foods that undergo minimal processing.

From a health standpoint, consuming large amounts of processed foods, whether plant-based or animal-based, can increase the risk of various health issues such as obesity, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes due to the added sugars, unhealthy fats, and excessive sodium commonly found in processed foods.

Evaluating Sustainability and Ethical Concerns

Plant-based meats have a distinct advantage over animal meats in terms of sustainability and ethical considerations. Livestock farming has a significant environmental impact, contributing to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water pollution. It also requires large amounts of land, water, and feed resources to sustain animal agriculture.

Conversely, the production of plant-based meats generally has a lower environmental footprint as it requires fewer resources such as land and water, emits fewer greenhouse gases, and contributes less to deforestation. However, the sustainability of plant-based meats can vary depending on factors such as the sourcing of ingredients, production methods, and packaging. Opting for plant-based meats made from organic and sustainably farmed ingredients can further reduce the environmental impact of these alternatives.

The Final Verdict: Is one Healthier than the other?

The assessment of whether plant-based meats or animal meats are ‘healthier’ largely hinges on individual health goals, dietary preferences, and ethical beliefs.

From a pure nutritional perspective, animal meats can offer a straightforward, less processed source of essential nutrients like complete proteins, vitamin B12, and heme-iron. Nonetheless, a well-planned plant-based diet can also meet all nutritional requirements, providing adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals without the saturated fats and cholesterol present in animal-based products.

Considering factors such as food intolerances, environmental sustainability, and ethical considerations, the debate between plant-based and animal meats becomes nuanced. There is no universal ‘better’ or ‘healthier’ choice, as both options have their own set of advantages and considerations. Ultimately, individuals should make informed dietary choices based on their unique needs, values, and circumstances to support their overall health and well-being.


Vanessa Bergoff

Vanessa is originally from the Ukraine. She has been living in Florida for the last 10 years. She holds a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Central Florida and a Master's degree in Technical Writing from the University of South Florida. She covers mostly health and health-related issues for the Scientific Origin.