“A Hearty Debate” Concludes Plant-Based Meat Alternatives Are Healthier for Your Heart Than Meat

Is plant-based meat heart healthier than animal meat? A new scientific review has finally settled the score. 

A comprehensive review published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology has concluded that plant-based meat alternatives offer a more heart-healthy nutritional profile compared to traditional meat. 

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This review, titled “Animal vs Plant-Based Meat: A Hearty Debate,” systematically analyzes the impact of PBMAs on cardiovascular disease risk factors such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure, sparking significant discussion in the scientific community and beyond.

The debate on heart health

Beliefs around the health metrics of plant-based meats are mixed, depending on who you ask. In this scientific approach, the review authors took a critical look at the nutritional content of plants-based and their effects on cardiovascular health. 

Despite the variability in plant-based meats, the review found these products generally reflect a heart-healthy dietary pattern, typically containing lower levels of saturated fats than animal meat.

Several randomized controlled trials cited in the review indicate that plant-based meats can significantly improve cholesterol levels, which are crucial in managing cardiovascular diseases. 

“Plant-based meat alternatives have not been shown to raise blood pressure, despite the high sodium content of some products,” the authors noted, alleviating a common concern associated with these meat alternatives.

The review also highlights a significant gap in long-term studies evaluating the direct impact of plant-based meats on cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. Matthew Nagra, ND, a study author, explained the need for more detailed research, given the increasing consumption of plant-based meat alternatives. 

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However, senior author Ehud Ur, MB, is already hopeful about how these products can be heart-healthy swaps for animal-derived meat, which has been linked to increased cardiovascular disease risk. 

“For those looking to reduce their meat intake, especially if it’s red meat, replacing that with plant-based meat alternatives is likely a heart-healthy choice,” Ur said in a statement. 

Research grows around plant-based meat

In addition to the review, several recent studies support the cardiovascular benefits of plant-based diets that include meat alternatives. 

Research from Stanford Medicine, for example, demonstrated that incorporating an average of two servings of plant-based meat alternatives, such as Beyond Meat, into one’s diet can reduce cardiovascular risk factors, including lower levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a molecule linked to cardiovascular disease. 

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This study highlighted that participants on a plant-based diet experienced lower TMAO levels compared to those on a red meat diet, suggesting potential cardiovascular benefits.

Similarly, a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study found that replacing animal-derived fats with plant-based fats reduced stroke risk by 12 percent. This long-term study tracked the dietary patterns of more than 117,000 health professionals and revealed that participants who consumed the most dietary fat from plant-based sources had a significantly lower risk of stroke.

Furthermore, the American Heart Association (AHA) has acknowledged the cardiovascular benefits of plant-based diets. According to a report published in the journal Circulation, diets high in plant-based foods score favorably on metrics related to heart health. The AHA’s dietary guidelines support the notion that plant-based meats can be a part of a heart-healthy diet.

Certified heart-healthy plant-based meats 

Plant-based meat brands Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have received certification from the AHA for some of their products, reinforcing their heart-healthy status. 

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Beyond Meat’s Beyond Steak, made primarily from fava beans, met the AHA’s strict nutritional guidelines, earning the Heart-Check Mark last year. 

“The Heart-Check Mark has become a standard in empowering consumers to make informed health decisions,” Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat, said in a statement at the time. 

“Like the American Heart Association, we aim to provide individuals access to nutritious options that prioritize taste and sustainability,” Brown said. 

Impossible Foods’ Impossible Beef Lite also received the AHA’s Healthy Heart Check certification last year. Impossible Foods created this plant-based meat as a lighter version of the original Impossible Beef in order to compete more closely with lean beef. 

Impossible Beef Lite is made from ingredients such as soy protein and sunflower oil, which mimic the taste and texture of traditional beef. Its nutritional benefits include a 75-percent reduction in saturated fat when compared to traditional 90/10 lean ground beef. It also contains 0 grams of trans fat and no cholesterol, providing a rich nutrient profile that includes 21 grams of protein, fiber, iron, B vitamins, zinc, and potassium.

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“Our core objective at Impossible is to be a part of the American culture and provide consumers with more choices by making meat that’s better tasting, but with zero cholesterol and lower saturated fat,” Sunil Chandran, Chief Science Officer at Impossible Foods, previously told VegNews. 

“We’re able to do so by using plants to recreate the crave-worthy experience of meat, but without many of its negative attributes,” he said.

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