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Faba beans. Credit: Suvi Itkonen
Faba beans. Credit: Suvi Itkonen
A study conducted at the University of Helsinki showed that partial substitution of red and processed meat with food products based on legumes and faba beans ensures adequate intake of amino acids in the diet and does not negatively affect bone metabolism.
“Reducing consumption of red and processed meat in the diet to the upper limit of the Planetary Health Diet while increasing consumption of legumes grown in Finland, such as peas and faba beans, is safe from a protein nutrition point of view. Likewise, bone health is also not disturbed by such dietary changes,” said Docent Suvi Itkonen from the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.
In the BeanMan study, 102 Finnish men followed a six-week diet study.
- One group consumed 760 grams of red and processed meat per week, which is 25% of total protein intake. This amount corresponds to the average protein consumption of Finnish men.
- The other group consumed legume-based food products, especially peas and faba beans, which accounted for 20% of their total protein intake. In addition, the amount of red and processed meat consumed per week in this group reached the upper limit of the Planetary Health Diet (200 g or 5% of total protein intake).
Otherwise, study subjects followed their eating habits but were not allowed to eat red or processed meat or nuts other than as provided by the study. These findings were published in British Journal of Nutrition.
The researchers found no differences between the diet groups in markers of bone formation or resorption. Intake of calcium or vitamin D also did not differ between groups. Calcium intake is within current dietary recommendations, and vitamin D intake is very close to recommended. The average intake of essential amino acids and protein met the recommendations in both groups.
“Reducing meat consumption is very important in terms of environmental impact,” Itkonen notes.
A plant-based diet is becoming increasingly popular, and the recently updated Nordic Nutrition Recommendations also emphasize limiting meat and dairy consumption in moderation.
“In this study, subjects consumed dairy products according to their dietary habits, so their calcium and vitamin D intake did not change. However, when it comes to bone health, it is important to remember that if one is reducing the amount of dairy products in the diet, it is important to ensure intake of calcium and vitamin D from other sources. These sources can include plant-based drinks and products such as yogurt fortified with these nutrients or, when necessary, food supplements,” said Itkonen.
Other findings in the BeanMan study related to, among other things, lipid metabolism, gut health, and nutritional intake will be published in the future.
Suvi T. Itkonen et al, Effect of partial substitution of red and processed meat for non-soy legumes on bone and mineral metabolism and amino acid intake in the BeanMan randomized clinical trial, British Journal of Nutrition (2023). DOI: 10.1017/S0007114523001514
British Journal of Nutrition
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