Are Vegan Fast Foods Healthier Than the Meat Equivalents?

Most of people shift to vegan fast foods thinking that they are healthier than the meat equivalents. But that may not be true. No high street in Britain is considered complete without Greggs. Last year, this bakery decided to turn vegan. This step was much applauded and was later followed by many other fast-food brands.

According to a dietician at London King’s College, Megan Ross, veganism is changing people’s preferences, causing them to consider plant-based foods. But there are also some cons related to the veganism practice, people might think of these plant-based foods as healthier. On the contrary, they might be more or equally unhealthy as compared to the meat equivalents.

Though omega 3 fats are present in tofu, they aren’t much active than animal sources. In plants, omega 3 fatty acids are in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which requires conversion into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to performing health-promoting functions. The human body lacks the mechanism for this conversion.

Whereas, in contrast to plants, DHA and EPA are available in higher quantities in animal sources like fish oils. Moreover, plant-based foods like fruits may be nutritionally valueless, if a person wishes to include protein in the diet. Fruits majorly contain carbohydrates with little to no protein.

So, fruits aren’t the best option when looking for meat alternatives. Additionally, the quality of plant-based proteins is also lower than animal-based proteins. Plant-based proteins are mostly deficient in at least one essential amino acid.

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So, if a person opts for a vegan diet, he should supplement his diet with the missing essential amino acids or balance his proteins in such a way that they complement each other. On the contrary, there’s no need for supplementation in case of animal-based foods like dairy products, meat, and egg, as they already have all nine essential amino acids and are considered “complete”.

Beans, mostly a constituent of vegan burgers, may provide some of these essential amino acids, but they aren’t considered as a complete source. Whereas, soy may be preferred due to its high-quality protein.

The plant- and animal-based foods are also different based on their iron content. Iron is present as haem form in animal sources and as non-haem iron in plant sources. By studies, the latter was found to be poorly absorbed by the body.

A meta-analysis on iron deficiency in vegetarians shows that vegans, particularly women, are at greater risk of iron deficiency compared to omnivores. A strict-vegetarian needs to be careful about food pairing. Using a vitamin C rich food in combination with plant-based foods may increase the absorption of non-haem iron.

Additionally, a vegan burger may have a greater content of salt, sugars, carbohydrates, and fats. The consumption of such foods for a longer period can predispose vegans to chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and CVDs. Furthermore, the continuous and long-term use of vegan fast foods may also increase the risk of B12 deficiency, calcium deficiency, osteoporosis, and infertility associated with iron deficiency.

Though vegan fast foods are preferred thinking they are healthier than meat equivalents, they may be even worse than the latter one.

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