Substituting salad for steak isn’t to everyone’s taste. But what if swapping your burger for a plant-based meat alternative could lower “bad” cholesterol?
Plant-based diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, legumes, nuts and seeds are known to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), including blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight.
Until now it’s not been known whether plant-based diets containing large amounts of meat alternatives would have the same cardiovascular benefits as diets based on unprocessed plant foods.
Scientists from Warwick University believe replacing meat in the diet with plant-based alternatives is likely to benefit your cholesterol levels and possibly reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes and CVD.
This study included two types of meat alternative: plant-based and mycoprotein-based, the latter being sourced from a fungus and commonly sold under the brand name Quorn.
The plant-based meat alternatives were made from processed soy, wheat, peanut or pea protein.
Lead author Joshua Gibbs, a PhD student at Warwick Medical School, said: “We reviewed 12 studies involving 459 participants, in which the effects of meat alternative consumption on cholesterol, blood pressure, fasting blood glucose and body weight were studied in controlled clinical trials.
“What became obvious is eating meat alternatives lowers total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol, can lead to the build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries which restrict blood flow and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
“An LDL cholesterol reduction of the scale caused by meat alternative consumption would reduce the risk of developing heart disease by about 25% over a two-year period.” By the way, this puts the effect way higher than claims for cholesterol-lowering spreads.
Mr Gibbs added: “This is a significant finding as it highlights people can obtain some of the benefits of healthy plant-based diets while making minimal dietary changes, such as swapping meat with meat alternatives.
“It also supports the pledge to switch to meat alternatives to meet environmental goals. Plant-based and mycoprotein-based meat substitutes have been shown to have smaller carbon, land, and water footprints than conventional meat by up to 90% depending on the type of animal being substituted.
“People interested in making the switch to meat alternatives should try to avoid regularly consuming products that are high in saturated fat and salt as these ingredients may undermine the cardiovascular health benefits observed in our study.”
Guess we’ve just got to get a taste for burgers that don’t contain meat if we want to help ourselves and the planet.