The Rise of Plant Based Foods: Exploring Nutritional Differences

In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the number of individuals opting for plant-based food choices due to concerns about health, sustainability and ethical considerations. While plant-based options strive to replicate animal-based foods, it is important to acknowledge that there are some nutritional differences between the two. By making informed choices, individuals can ensure they meet their dietary needs while aligning with their personal values.

When it comes to vegan egg products, emulsions of oil, starch, and isolated proteins are commonly used as substitutes (refer to the diagram below for chicken egg substitutes). Interestingly, studies have shown that there are no significant differences in terms of energy value and total fat content between vegan and animal-based products. However, vegan alternatives tend to have higher levels of carbohydrates and dietary fiber, as they often rely on legumes and nuts as their base. On the other hand, animal proteins, such as those found in eggs and milk, contain higher amounts of protein and sodium.

Animal-based proteins, like those found in eggs, offer a high-quality protein source that includes casein, whey protein, and albumin. In contrast, vegetable proteins are typically limited in terms of their amino acid composition. To enhance the taste and texture of vegan substitutes, food additives, thickeners and gums are commonly used. Pea and chickpea flour, which are isolated proteins, are often utilized as egg replacements. 

Albumin, present in eggs, plays a crucial role in stabilizing baked goods, improving texture, and creating foam. The egg yolk, rich in phospholipids, acts as a natural emulsifier, contributing to the stability, durability, and texture of the final product. However, when using legume-based substitutes, the texture of baked goods may differ. For instance, in mayonnaise, egg yolks stabilize the liquid and fatty phases, resulting in a creamy consistency. To create a vegan version, the same process is followed, but with a vegetable oil instead of a chicken egg. Starches are used to sustain the emulsion through gelatinization.

In conclusion, it is important to note that baking with an egg substitute will not necessarily yield an identical product to one made with a chicken’s egg. Vegan products generally have lower sodium and protein content, necessitating a greater consumption of beans and lentils to meet protein requirements. While vegan alternatives are higher in dietary fiber, caution should be exercised with products which contain coconut or palm oil, as these are saturated fats.

REFERENCES 1.Romao B, Botello RBA, Nakano EY, Borges VRP, de Holanda MEM, Raposo A, Han H, Gil-Marin M, Ariza-Montes & Zandonadi RP (2022). Vegan milk and egg alternatives commercialized in Brazil: A study of the nutritional composition and main ingredients. Front Public Health 1-12. 2. Viana A, Ethur EM, Freitas EM & Hoehre L (2023). Chicken eggs substitute using vegetable origin- a review. Food & bioprocess technology 16, 1652-1667.

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