It’s no secret that plant-based foods contain a number of heart-healthy benefits like vitamins and antioxidants, but while animal products are often thought to clog us up with high cholesterol, a new study has shown that simply switching up your burger to a veggie option may be a waste of time. PBMA’s (plant-based meat alternatives) are becoming a ‘growing’ part of our diets, but if served up as an ultra-processed dish, they could actually be worse for us than meat.

How Was the Latest Study Conducted?

For eight weeks the participants in a study, conducted in Singapore, were instructed to eat either meat, or a plant-based alternative such as a veggie burger as part of their diet. Baseline measurements were taken, including cholesterol levels and blood pressure readings. The data was then analyzed to determine whether there were any statistical differences in the carnivores compared to the plant-based subjects, with a focus on heart health and Type-2 diabetes risk factors.

Scientist holding a petri dish of Plant-Based Meat Alternatives labeled for vegans

Meat vs. Plant-Based Meat Alternatives: The Results.

Perhaps surprisingly, there were no significant differences in the cholesterol profiles of either the meat or plant-based diets. The meat eaters, however, appeared to have more stable blood sugar levels. Blood pressure was also marginally improved in the carnivores. This may be due to the meat substitutes having less protein synthesis and not being as readily absorbed as animal products. While plants are known to contain many health benefits, the process of adapting them and shaping them into an attractive substitute such as a burger could potentially reduce their nutrient profile.

Ultra processed foods still seem to offer less of an upside than the whole food counterparts, whether they contain meat or not, and this is an issue that food manufacturers will need to address in the long term in order to satisfy plant-based customers. Plant based meat alternatives are often high in sodium and oils, just like processed meats, but can also contain more carbs, leading to higher calories. So, while eating more plants is generally a good idea, there are other studies that suggest that a balanced diet containing meat is still important for a variety of reasons including brain health among other benefits.

The takeaway? Always check the label to make sure you aren’t substituting a juicy burger with a plant based meat alternative that is actually worse off for you.