Article image

Plant-based meat has less protein and lacks certain nutrients

Many plant-based meat alternatives promising the juicy texture and flavor of ‘real meat’. But have you ever wondered how these products truly measure up to the nutrients of a classic steak or cold cuts we know?

Meat vs. plant-based nutrients

Researchers analyzed the nutritional profiles of both plant-based and animal-based steaks and cold cuts, revealing some significant differences:


Plant-based products generally contained higher quantities of carbohydrates compared to their meat counterparts. These carbohydrates often come from the plant ingredients used to create the texture and consistency of the product.


Animal-based products had a higher protein content than plant-based alternatives. Protein is essential for many bodily functions, and the quality of that protein also matters.

Amino acids

Amino acids are the fundamental units that make up proteins. Our bodies require a variety of ‘essential’ amino acids that must be obtained through our diet.

Plant-based products often showed a reduced overall amino acid profile compared to animal-based products.

Amino acids are crucial for various bodily processes. Our muscles require amino acids for building and maintaining tissue. They also play a role in the synthesis of hormones, which are chemical messengers that regulate many functions.

On top of that, amino acids support immune function, nutrient transport, and various other processes essential for overall health.

Digestibility differences

Different products also showed differing levels of digestibility due to the variety of ingredients they contain. This means that our stomachs may have to work harder (or less) depending on the type of plant-based product, compared to its meat counterpart.

However, plant cold cuts generally contain less salt than traditional meats, which could be beneficial for those monitoring their sodium intake.

Plant-based meat vs. veal nutrients

While plant-based steaks generally lagged behind animal-based steaks in terms of overall amino acid content, they demonstrated surprising parity with veal.

This is a promising finding, suggesting that with careful formulation, plant-based alternatives can potentially offer a comparable essential amino acid profile to certain meats.

The study underscored a crucial point: the nutritional quality of plant-based products is highly dependent on the specific ingredients and the way they are combined. This leads to significant variations in both the types of amino acids present and how well our bodies can digest and absorb those nutrients.

Therefore, consumers need to be aware that not all plant-based foods are nutritionally equivalent. Scrutinizing ingredients lists is essential to differentiate between products that are genuinely healthy and those that might fall short.

Nutrition profile of plant-based meats

Some plant-based steaks might actually be similar to real meat in terms of nutrition. Others might be a lot less protein-packed or harder for our bodies to digest. It depends on what plants they’re made from and how they’re processed.

Ingredient labels on plant-based products can be confusing. This research shows that companies should be more transparent about what’s really inside those veggie burgers and plant-based “chicken” strips.

Whether you love meat or are ditching it completely, this isn’t about saying plant-based foods are “bad”. It’s about saying “Hey, if you’re expecting this to be exactly the same nutritionally as the animal-based version, that might not always be true.”

How to choose plant-based meat

The nutrients in plant-based meats can be a delicious and sustainable option for many people. But before tossing that plant-based steak on the grill…

Check the label

When choosing plant-based meats, always start by examining the label. Ask yourself if the ingredients listed resemble real foods you are familiar with.

Additionally, check if the product offers a good source of protein and other essential nutrients. It’s important to ensure that these alternatives are both recognizable and nutritionally adequate.

Listen to your body

It’s also vital to listen to your body’s signals after eating a plant-based meal. Observe if you feel hungry soon afterwards or if the meal provides lasting satisfaction.

This can help you determine if the plant-based option is as fulfilling as its traditional counterparts, allowing you to adjust your diet for better satiety and nutritional balance.

Mix it up

Diversify your diet to avoid relying solely on one type of food, whether it’s plant-based meats or any other. Incorporating a variety of foods is crucial for a balanced diet.

Mix different food types, including meats, vegetables, and plant-based alternatives, to ensure a broad intake of essential nutrients. This variety not only enhances your nutritional intake but also makes your meals more enjoyable.

Whether driven by our ethics, health, or taste buds, choosing plant-based alternatives can be beneficial. This research simply reminds us to be mindful and informed about what’s on our plates.

The study is published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates. 

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day