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Morning Rounds: Are vegan patties healthier than real meat?

NORFOLK, Va. - Options for meatless meat are growing as many people aim to eliminate or decrease the amount of animal protein in their diets.  According to a recent CBS News report, meatless meat could become a $35 billion market.

While some choose vegan or vegetarian lifestyles for environmental reasons, others choose it to improve their health.

But are those meatless meat patties really a healthier option?

"Plant based proteins are not a complete source of protein. They do not contain all the amino acids needed for proper bodily function," said News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light. "Animal proteins such as beef, fish and poultry are considered complete proteins because [they] contain all the essential amino acids needed for effective bodily function."

"There are health benefits to vegetarian based diets," he added. "People who are vegetarians tend to be health-conscious, so lifestyle plays a roll in overall health, not just the consumption of plant based protein."

Dr. Light said vegetarian proteins are low in saturated fats and have been shown to decrease the rate of heart disease. However, he said it lacks a complete compliment of all the essential amino acids. When compared to meat-based proteins, plant-based proteins contain low quantities of vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and zinc.

Dr. Light also said beware of the oils used in processed vegan and real meat products.

"Canola oil is commonly found in many processed food products," said Dr. Light, explaining that it is high in inflammatory omega-6 fats compared to beneficial omega-3 fats. "Overconsumption of canola oil can trigger an imbalance in this ratio lead to inflammation."

Dr. Light said there is an overall rule to good health.

"Adopting a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a well-balanced diet of lean protein (either plant or beef), whole grains, green vegetables, nuts, fruits, berries and dairy - all in moderation - provides the best overall healthy outcome, he said.

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