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How Plant-Based Diets Impact Gut Health [Study]

The number of consumers choosing to eat plant-based meat alternatives (PBMA) is growing every year. During January in particular we see a huge rise, largely due to ‘Veganuary’, which is now becoming something of a trend. 

Eating a plant-based diet has become increasingly easier. Ten years ago the number of meat substitutes was minimal. It was either a processed frozen piece of ‘chicken’ or ‘sausage’. Or the alternative was simply sticking to uninspiring dishes of pasta, risotto or plain tofu. 

It’s the former days of meat-substitutes that’s given PBMA a bad rep – many contained palm oil, unnecessary preservatives or sweeteners. But fast forward 10 years and the industry has come on leaps and bounds, yet some people still believe they are ‘highly processed’.

In a recent study called Impact of plant-based meat alternatives on the gut microbiota of consumers: a real-world study’, scientists monitored two control groups: one who ate a purely animal-product diet, and another who ate five PBMA per week, for four weeks. Their aim was to prove that eating PBMA, even for just a few meals a week, can have a positive impact on gut microbiota.

Although the control group was small, just 40 participants, results did point towards a benefit of eating more PBMA. “Participants in the intervention group elicited changes in their gut microbiota that are consistent with eubiosis (a healthy gut microbiome), meaning that the occasional replacement of animal meats with PBMA products seen in flexitarian dietary patterns, may promote positive changes to the gut microbiome of consumers. This provides us with a starting point from which to continue to test our hypotheses with a crossover trial design, and the addition of shotgun metabolomics data.”

Meatless Farm is one of the new companies catering to the growing number of people choosing meat alternatives. The UK supplier has a great selection of plant-based products including burgers, mince, sausages, and sausage rolls.

They also have a fantastic recipe section for customers to take inspiration from: sloppy-joes, kebabs, tacos, shepherds pie, fajitas, pigs in blankets, stuffed peppers and much more – all meat-free of course. 

And because no burger is complete without a good helping of creamy mayo, Fairway Foodservice launched Premium Vegan Mayo – a creamy mayo substitute, free from artificial flavours and colours. It also suits a range of dietary requirements: vegetarian, vegan, gluten, and common allergies like mustard, egg, and nuts. See some recipe ideas here

With ‘Veganuary’ just around the corner, now’s a great time to start experimenting with PBMA, as we expect to see an increase of people actively eating less meat during the month of January. Who knows, it may even become a regular on your menu!

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© Dennis Edwards for Foodservice 2022