Plant-based meat vs. chicken: Which do we get more protein from?

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Researchers compared protein absorption between plant-based meat and chicken meats. Protein absorption was higher for chicken meat than for plant-based meat. The researchers concluded that the nutritional value of plant-based meats could be improved by modifying formulation and production conditions. In recent years, plant-based meats have become more common as a way to ‘enjoy the taste of meat’ without hurting animals or the environment.

Although plant-based meats’ low fat and cholesterol levels may help reduce obesity and cardiovascular disease risk, studies show that they may be less digestible than animal-derived meats.

Knowing more about how plant-based proteins are digested could help assess their feasibility as a main source of dietary protein.

Recently, researchers compared protein absorption from plant-based meat with chicken meat. They found that plant-based protein was absorbed less during an in-vitro digestion process than protein from chicken.

The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Plant-based vs. chicken

For the study, the researchers created a plant-based ‘chicken’ meat from soybean concentrate and wheat gluten. The final product had a protein content of 24.2%.

The plant-based meat was then cooked alongside chicken meat, ground to simulate the chewing process, and passed through a 2.36 mm sieve to avoid sample size-induced effects on digestion for the two samples.

The resulting ‘meat clumps’ then underwent various in vitro tests to model protein absorption during digestion.

From these tests, the researchers found that the water solubility of plant-based meats gradually increased during in vitro digestion, reaching around 8% after gastric digestion and then 14% at the end of intestinal digestion.

They found, however, that chicken peptides were consistently more water-soluble than plant-based peptides.

Furthermore, they noted that of the 110 peptides identified in the plant-based meat, around 50% remained after the digestion process.

Meanwhile, of the over 500 peptides identified in chicken meat, only 15% remained after digestion. This, they wrote, suggested that peptides in chicken are more readily-absorbed than those from plant-based sources.

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