There are many reasons why humans eat meat. It’s a simple and efficient way to get nutrients, and it’s usually very convenient. But in modern times, our meat consumption has increased dramatically, up to the point where meat is often a part of every meal — something which is unnecessary and damaging to human health.
Nevertheless, due to this habit, many people say that they only feel full if they eat meat. It’s become one of the most common arguments against reducing meat consumption. To put this argument to the test, a team of researchers compared the physiological responses of men after eating meat and plant-based burgers.
The question the study set out to answer was pretty straightforward: what would leave you feeling fuller — a good old cheeseburger, or a vegan tofu one? At first glance, the result seems obvious; surely the cheeseburger would come on top. Surprisingly, the results showed otherwise: participants were more likely to say that the vegan burger was more filling.
In fact, all of the study participants reported feeling fuller after eating the vegan burger. It’s not entirely clear why, but the study authors say that this has a lot to do with beneficial gastrointestinal hormones involved in the “regulation of glucose metabolism, energy homeostasis, satiety, and weight management.”
“Our results indicate there is an increase in gut hormones and satiety, following consumption of a single plant-based meal with tofu when compared with energy- and macronutrient-matched processed-meat meat and cheese meal, in healthy, obese and diabetic men,” the authors continue.
In terms of nutrients, tofu also stands up to meat very well. A portion of 100 grams of fried tofu has around 17 grams of protein, compared to 14-20 for an equivalent quantity of beef (depending on how lean the meat is). However, tofu has less than 5 grams of fat per 100 g, compared to over 15 grams of fat found in the beef. Plant-based foods also have a healthy amount of fibers, which cannot be said about meat. All in all, it’s a much healthier alternative for very similar amounts of protein.
Why this matters
Research has identified reducing meat consumption as one of the most eco-friendly things you can do. It’s not just the ethical concern about killing less animals — it’s also about the carbon and water footprints associated with meat. Meat is one of the most taxing things you can eat in terms of environmental impact, and it’s also exacerbating the antibiotic resistance crisis.
Fatty meats, such as burgers, are also a significant contributor to the obesity crisis the world is facing, and researchers suggest that plant-based alternatives can be useful to tackle obesity and diabetes.
“Our findings indicate that plant-based meals with tofu may be an effective tool to increase postprandial secretion of gastrointestinal hormones, as well as promote satiety, compared to processed meat and cheese,” they wrote. “These positive properties may have practical implications for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.”
Plant-based alternatives to burgers are becoming increasingly popular in recent years, and they’re already a common occurrence on both menus and in the supermarkets. However, there’s still a long way to go before plant-based burgers become a true competitor for meat burgers. Fighting myths such as “meat satiety” is an important step in this direction.
However, it should be said that the study has significant limitations, particularly when it comes to the sample size: just 60 participants were included (20 healthy, 20 obese, 20 with diabetes), and they were all men. Studies on a much greater sample size are required to confirm the results and add more robustness to them, but it’s an intriguing and potentially myth-breaking result.