A new review study conducted by a research team at the University of Bath shows that plant-based food products (think: the Impossible Burger or almond milk) are healthier for people than their corresponding animal-based product. They are also more environmentally friendly.
The study, published in Future Foods, looked at about 43 different studies that looked at the myriad impacts of plant-based foods, focusing on their health benefits, their impact on the environment, and even people’s attitudes towards plant-based foods.
A major finding from the review suggested that plant-based food products have a substantial impact on reducing greenhouse gasses, particularly for plant-based products that replace animal products like beef. Beef, specifically, is notorious for having a very large carbon footprint. The beef and dairy industry contributes about seven gigatons of greenhouse gasses each year.
When it came to overall healthiness of plant-based products, researchers found that plant-based products consistently win out compared to animal-based products. For example, some studies have shown that plant-based products could help increase muscle mass and have a positive effect on people trying to lose weight.
Finally, when it came to people’s attitudes towards plant-based products, the results were a bit surprising. Researchers found that people were more likely to gravitate towards plant-based products that could replicate the experience of eating an animal-based product, such as taste and texture. But the studies also found that many animal-based products were able to appeal to key things that people wanted, including the taste of the product.
Ultimately, researchers highlight that there are plenty of opportunities to increase and improve on current plant-based products, including improving the taste as well as finding unique ways to enhance the nutritional quality of these products.
Plant-based products have become increasingly common and popular in recent years. For example, plant-based food sales hit over $7 billion in 2021, representing a roughly 6% growth over the previous year.
Despite many people having reservations about plant-based products, the evidence is clear: they are a healthier food option than animal-based products, they are better for the environment, and there is growing positive consumer perceptions of these products.