Seed World

Chicken Trumps Plant-Based Meat When It Comes to Protein

The plant-based meat movement has risen in popularity over the past few years. Consumers are offered nearly any type of alternative meat, from fish sticks to ground beef. Plants that are high in protein, such as soybeans, which ring in at 67.9 grams of protein per cup, are common ingredients.

Despite the high protein count, the amount of nutrients from the plant that make it into human cells has been unclear. In a recent study, researchers discovered that proteins in model plant-based substitutes, “were not as accessible to cells as those from meat.” The team believes this knowledge could be used to create healthier products.

Plant-based products are often thought to be healthier than animal meats because plants used to make the alternative meats are high in protein and lower in undesirable fats. Yet, tests have shown those proteins don’t break down into peptides as successfully as those from meats, shared a news release from the American Chemical Society.

A team of researchers went a step further to determine if human cells can absorb a similar amount of peptides from model meat alternatives compared to a piece of chicken. Soy and wheat gluten were used to create the model meat alternative. The material displayed long, fibrous pieces when cut open, just like chicken.

Researchers cooked pieces of both proteins that were then ground up and broken apart with an enzyme humans use to digest food. Tests revealed the meat-substitute peptides were “less water-soluble than those from chicken” and were “not absorbed as well by human cells,” said the release.

“After simulated digestion, soluble peptides in the MA (meat analogues) had a higher molecular weight and higher hydrophobicity … The former exhibited less permeability of peptides across Caco-2 cells,” shared the study.

The team believes the next step is to uncover additional ingredients that could boost peptide uptake for plant-based meat substitutes.