Can Legumes Substitute for Meat? [Nutritional and Protein Profiles]

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Several individuals today are considering feasible meat substitutes for a number of reasons.

Some people feel that meat is intrinsically harmful, while others are worried about the environmental impact of animal farming, and still others have moral objections to consuming animal products.

Legumes are one dietary type that is often touted as a meat alternative.

To determine if legumes can replace meat in the human diet without negatively impacting our health, we must first determine whether legumes are similar enough to meat to serve all of the responsibilities that meat would do in a balanced diet.

In the end, I don’t think legumes can totally replace meat since they don’t supply equivalent quantities of protein and because the micronutrients given by legumes and meat vary.

But first, let’s discuss the nutritional function of meat in a balanced diet.

What is the nutritional role of meat in the human diet?

Meat has various important functions in supporting overall health in a healthy human diet.

Meat provides protein with a diverse amino acid composition.

It also contains a variety of micronutrients, including B vitamins, heme iron, and minerals including zinc, magnesium, and selenium.

Lastly, meat contains a variety of unique substances such as carnosine, carnitine, creatine, and taurine.

Meat, fish, eggs, and certain dairy items are high in protein.

A 4-ounce sirloin steak, for example, has around 34 grams of protein, whereas 4 ounces of tilapia contains approximately 30 grams of protein.

Protein is essential for lean tissue development and repair, immune system function, and hormone control in the body.

Protein is generally recognized as the building blocks of the human body, including not just muscle but also bone, neurotransmitters, hormones, and immune system signaling molecules.

Protein is needed for optimal growth and development in youngsters, as well as for healthy aging.

Following that, meat is high in micronutrients (substances needed by your body in small amounts, such as vitamins and minerals). 4 ounces of chicken breast, for example, contains 14mg of vitamin B3, as well as lower levels of the other B vitamins:

The same quantity of chicken breast includes a range of minerals, the most notable of which is phosphorus.

Although while chicken breast is high in nutrients, it pales in comparison to red meat, which is a nutritious powerhouse. 6 ounces of sirloin steak includes all of the B vitamins, with an emphasis on B6 and B12.

It also has a good amount of choline:

It also packs a mineral punch, giving almost the recommended value of zinc in one serving and a good dose of bioavailable iron:

Carnosine, carnitine, creatine, and taurine are also found in red meat.

Each of these chemicals has distinct health advantages.

  • Carnosine functions as an antioxidant to scavenge free radicals and prevents glycation in the body.
  • Carnitine is believed to be beneficial in avoiding anemia, enhancing the body’s utilisation of glucose, and maybe boosting male fertility through improving sperm quality.
  • Creatine has been demonstrated to boost physical performance and, in some situations, cognitive function.
  • Taurine is an additional potent antioxidant and glycation inhibitor.

Meat, especially red meat, contains all of these chemicals.

Can pulses replace meat in a meal?

Pulses (or legumes) and meat are two very distinct foods with very varied nutritional values in the human diet.

Humans normally turn to meat for high-quality protein and a variety of minerals, including B vitamins, iron, and zinc.

Pulses do not supply the same amount of high-quality protein as meat, and they include different vitamins and minerals.

Meat and legumes both contain health-promoting chemicals, but they are not the same.

As a result, we cannot expect beans to be a comprehensive substitute for meat.

Now that we’ve examined the nutritional aspects that meat plays in a balanced diet, we must consider if legumes (pulses) may play the same duties.

Can legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, soy products, and peanuts) supply the same amount of protein, micronutrients, and other beneficial chemicals (carnosine, carnitine, creatine, and taurine) as meat?

Let’s look at the nutritional differences between beef and kidney beans as an example. A 4-ounce serving of sirloin steak has 30 grams of total protein, while a 4-ounce serving of cooked kidney beans offers 9 grams of total protein.

To acquire the same amount of protein from plants as you would from that 4-ounce steak, eat 12 ounces of kidney beans plus a cup of rice.

The steak has 181 calories, while the beans and rice have 638 calories (including 122 grams of carbs).

In terms of micronutrients, how do the beans and steak compare? 4 ounces of steak has almost the complete recommended daily requirement for vitamin B12, which is one of the world’s most common deficiencies.

It is also rich in B3, B6, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. In example, 4 ounces of kidney beans have 37% of the recommended intake of folate but very low quantities of other vitamins and minerals.

The table below compares the vitamin content of steak and kidney beans side by side.

Except for folate, steak has a higher nutritional density in vitamins than beans.

Vitamin 4 oz. sirloin steak 4 oz. kidney beans
B1 (Thiamine) .1 mg (8% DRI) .2 mg (16% DRI)
B2 (Riboflavin) .3 mg (30% DRI) .1 mg (6% DRI)
B3 (Niacin) 9 mg (64% DRI) .7 mg (5% DRI)
B5 (Pantothenic Acid) .5 mg (10% DRI) .2 mg (5% DRI)
B6 (Pyridoxine) .9 mg (68% DRI) .1mg (10% DRI)
B12 (Cobalamin) 2.3 mcg (95% DRI) 0 mcg (0% DRI)
Folate 5.7 mcg (1% DRI) 147.4 mcg (37% DRI)
Vitamin A 15.9 IU (1% DRI) 0 IU (0% DRI)
Vitamin C 0 mg (0% DRI) 1.4 mg (2% DRI)
Vitamin D 1.1 IU (0% DRI) 1.1 IU (0% DRI)
Vitamin E .3 mg (2% DRI) 0 mg (0% DRI)
Vitamin K 2.2 mcg (2% DRI) 2.5 mcg (11% DRI)

DRI stands for daily recommended intake.

Another table comparing the mineral content of steak and beans is provided below.

Beans have more copper, magnesium, and manganese than beef, whereas beef contains more phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.

Mineral 4 oz. sirloin steak 4 oz. kidney beans
Calcium 18.1 mg (2% DRI) 39.7 mg (4% DRI)
Copper .1 mg (7% DRI) .2 mg (27% DRI)
Iron 3.3 mg (18% DRI) 2.5 mg (14% DRI)
Magnesium 17 mg (5% DRI) 47.6 mg (15% DRI)
Manganese 0 mg (0% DRI) .5 mg (27% DRI)
Phosphorus 306.2 mg (44% DRI) 156.5 mg (22% DRI)
Potassium 435.4 mg (9% DRI) 459.3 mg (10% DRI)
Selenium 30.9 mcg (56% DRI) 1.2 mcg (2% DRI)
Sodium 76 mg (3% DRI) 1.1 mg (0% DRI)
Zinc 5.1 mg (64% DRI) 1.1 mg (14% DRI)

DRI stands for daily recommended intake.

While evaluating the nutritional value of beans, take in mind that, although they are generally nutrient-dense foods, the quantity of nutrients available in the food itself is not completely absorbed by the human body.

Beans contain phytic acid, which has been proven to inhibit zinc, iron, and calcium absorption.

Micronutrients found in meat, on the other hand, are more accessible and readily absorbed by the body.

Meat, particularly red meat, has been shown to contain unique health-promoting chemicals such as carnosine, carnitine, creatine, and taurine.

Beans do not contain these chemicals.

Beans, on the other hand, offer their own set of health-promoting chemicals.

Beans have fiber, which may improve digestive health in certain people; meat does not contain fiber (it should be noted that fiber can actually cause digestive disfunction in some people there is a whole subset of the population that does not tolerate fiber and other plant compounds).

Beans are also high in antioxidants and polyphenols, which assist to limit the harmful effects of free radicals in the body.

Are chickpeas a good substitute for meat?

Chickpeas and beef are two very distinct foods.

They each contain distinct nutrients and so serve diverse functions in our diet.

As a result, chickpeas should not be considered a meat replacement.

Chickpeas are seeds, much as other legumes. Chickpeas are also referred to as garbanzo beans, Bengal grams, and Egyptian peas.

They are the main component in hummus, as well as falafel, chana masala, and curry.

They are a staple in Indian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Keep in mind that the fundamental nutritional purpose of meat in our diet is to offer high-quality, bioavailable protein as well as vitamins and minerals.

From a nutritional standpoint, how do chickpeas compare to meat?

Let’s put chickpeas up against pig loin chops. A 4-ounce serving of chickpeas has 10 grams of protein, but a 4-ounce serving of pork chop offers 32.7 grams of protein.

As a result, pig has almost three times as much protein as chickpeas.

In terms of protein, pork definitely outperforms chickpeas.

Chickpeas are high in a variety of vitamins and minerals, including folate (195 mcg per 4-ounce serving), copper (.4 mg), and manganese (1.2 mg).

Pork is high in B vitamins, phosphorus (251 mg per 4-ounce dish), selenium (49 mcg), and zinc (3.2 mg).

Chickpeas and pork are both high in nutrients, however they contain distinct vitamins and minerals.

Can I replace chicken with chickpeas in my diet?

Chickpeas and chicken are two entirely distinct types of food that contain various nutrients and so have different nutritional functions.

Chickpeas offer nutritious value on their own, however they should not be considered a meat substitute.

4 ounces of chicken breast has 35 grams of protein, but the same quantity of chickpeas contains just 10 grams.

In terms of protein, chicken outperforms chickpeas.

Chicken also contains a lot of B3 (14.1 mg, which is more than the DRI, in a 4-ounce meal), B6, and phosphorus.

As previously said, chickpeas are high in a variety of nutrients.

Chickpeas and chicken, like pig, have highly distinct nutritional profiles, despite the fact that both are nutrient-dense.

Do chickpeas have as much protein as meat?

Lean muscle meat (chicken, hog, and steak) has more than three times the protein of chickpeas.

As previously stated, 4 ounces of chickpeas has 10 grams of protein.

A 4-ounce chicken breast has 35 grams of protein, a 4-ounce sirloin steak contains 34 grams, and a 4-ounce pork chop contains 33 grams.

To get the same amount of protein from chickpeas, you’d have to eat a staggering 12 ounces of cooked chickpeas (or about 2 full cups).

A big dish of chickpeas has around 550 calories and 93 grams of carbs.

This underlines one of the major issues with turning to beans as a meat substitute.

A meal would need to deliver comparable levels of protein to genuinely act as a meat substitute.

Yet, in order to get a portion of protein similar to that obtained from meat, you would need to consume significantly more calories.

Eating so many extra calories over time would almost certainly result in body fat increase, which brings with it a slew of possible health issues.

In my opinion, it is ideal to think of beans and meat as different foods with distinct health advantages.

Feel free to consume beans if you love them and can digest them properly.

Therefore, they should not be used as a meat substitute. Let meat to be meat, and beans to be beans.


Can you replace meat with legumes?

Grain legumes combined with whole grain cereals may substitute meat as a source of protein, zinc, and iron while also raising fibre and folate consumption beyond the typically low levels in Western diets (Röös et al. 2019).

Can legumes be a protein substitute?

Legumes augment cereals in the diet; they give considerable protein, essential amino acids, and minerals, and may be substituted for meat when it is unavailable or too expensive.

Can you replace meat protein with beans?

Plant foods high in protein

Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and mushrooms, for example, provide protein or have a meaty feel and may be used as meat alternatives. These sorts of foods are often included in vegetarian and vegan goods.

What foods can replace meat for protein?

How to Get Protein Without Consuming Meat
Pulses. Pulses are a low-cost protein source that is also strong in fiber and iron.
Soya beans…. Quinoa…. Nuts…. Seeds…. Cereals and grains…. QuornTM.
More to come…

Is eating legumes the same as eating meat?

Since legumes include many of the same nutrients as lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs, they are classified as both a food category and a vegetable. They are required in vegetarian and vegan diets to ensure adequate intake of the critical nutrients contained in this food category.

What happens when you replace meat with beans?

When you cut down on protein, you need to replenish it, and beans are the right meal for the task. They’re rich in dietary fiber, low in fat, and almost always low in cholesterol. Nevertheless, beans are just as flexible as meat and far less costly.

Can you get enough protein from legumes?

2 cup cooked) of beans has around 7 grams of protein, which is equivalent to 1 ounce of meat.” Since they are high in fiber, beans and legumes keep you satiated for longer. “Beans and legumes are fiber-rich food powerhouses with a high protein content,” explains Hopsecger. “One portion (1

Are legumes enough protein?

Foods with Incomplete Protein. All animal-based foods, including meat, dairy, and eggs, include complete protein, according to Harvard Health Publications. The majority of plant-based protein sources are deficient, including whole grains, legumes, seeds & nuts, spinach, broccoli, and mushrooms.

Can chickpeas replace meat?

Legumes are both a meat alternative and a carbohydrate.

Lentils, beans, and chickpeas are all good meat replacements. But, since they include carbs, they will affect your blood glucose levels.

Can beans be your only source of protein?

Beans are generally regarded an incomplete protein (they do not contain all of the required amino acids) and should be paired with another complementary protein. For example, to form a complete protein, mix them with brown rice, maize, almonds, seeds, or wheat.

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