Turns out protein from plants is 'healthier than meat'

Last year, Men’s Health did a feature on steak versus seitan, asking ‘which is better?’.

It found that seitan – a plant-based meat substitute made from gluten – had three times the protein of steak and 10% of the fat content. Per 100g, seitan boasted 28% ‘brain sharpening iron’ compared to steak’s 13%, slightly more magnesium but none of the B12 content meat naturally has.

Oh, and swapping to a meat substitute was found to potentially add four years to your life, compared to eating red meat every day which increases your odds of early death by 12%.

Guess which food item won the battle of the proteins? Steak. Despite evidence pointing towards seitan being nutritious and less dangerous, Men’s Health still voted steak… bizarrely enough.

Well, new data confirms – again – than you’re better off getting your protein requirements from beans rather than beef.

Researchers in Greece looked at the diets of 3,349 women and men over the age of 50. They calculated a successful ageing score (SAI) and related what they ate to that index.

They found that those who ate a high plant protein diet had a higher SAI score than those who had a low plant protein intake – leading them to conclude that protein-rich plant-based diet was potentially more beneficial for health and ‘successful aging’ than the alternatives.

When it comes to living longer, another study examined the impact of protein intake on the lifespan of 6,381 over-50s in the USA.

Those who reported that they had a high protein intake were found to have an 75 per cent increase in overall mortality and a four-fold increase in cancer-related death risk over the following 18 years. But guess what? That was only the case for those who got their protein from meat sources. Plant proteins were actually associated with a lower mortality risk.

Not convinced yet? The study sizes still too small? How about this 2019 70,696 participant-strong study by Japanese researchers? Again, researchers found that intake of plant protein was associated with lower death risk and deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Good sources of plant protein

Firstly, don’t believe the propaganda – you can get sufficient amounts of protein on a plant-based diet with a little planning. It’s dead easy to shove a steak and veg on a plate and continue with your day, but vegan eating requires you to be a little more inventive and strategic.

Prioritise real foods and if you feel like you need more protein (if you do a lot of exercise, for example), then think about supplementing with a protein shake or bar. One very delicious and simple way to do that is to get yourself a box of MisFits Plant-Based High Protein chocolate bars. They taste ridiculously good, have under 1g of sugar per bar and 15g of protein.

Otherwise, look at getting protein into every meal.

All nut butters are great sources of protein, containing 3.4g per tablespoon, while half a cup of lentils provides about 12g of protein. Baked beans are dead nutritious, containing about 4g of protein per 100g and 0g of saturated fat.

And then, of course, you’ve got your tofu and tempeh which contain all nine essential amino acids you need, as well as iron, calcium, manganese and phosporous.

Meat substitutes like Oumph! chunks are made from soy protein and contain 17g of protein per 100g but only 82kcls (which is super low). Seitan, as mentioned above, is very high protein and low in saturated fat too.

So there are plenty of options and while no one is saying that you’ve got to go 100 per cent vegan to live longer or be healthier, it is worth experimenting with plant-based alternatives.

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