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UMass Scientist Learns How to Improve the Taste of Vegan Protein

As veganism continues to grow around the world, food scientists have been working to improve the taste of vegan protein. They also want to create healthier and more sustainable plant proteins, as many existing products have fallen short in these areas. Products they have been working to perfect include: plant-based meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs.

Food scientist David Julian McClements, a distinguished professor at the University of Massachusetts, says it’s no easy task. He is the lead author of the study in the last Nature daily, Food science, who published the research.

McClements, a pioneer in food design and nanotechnology and author of Food of the future: how modern science is transforming the way we eat, Said this:

“With Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and other products hitting the market, there is great interest in plant-based foods to improve sustainability, health and ethical reasons.”

Vegan and vegetarian products have become increasingly popular in the last five years. Many people cite animal rights, environmental concerns, and human health as major reasons for going vegan. As a result, companies have responded to demand and developed plant-based proteins that look and taste strikingly similar to meat.

In 2019, plant-based food sales in the US alone reached nearly $ 5 billion. 40.5% of sales came from the dairy category and 18.9% from meat of vegetable origin. In just two years, the market value of vegan protein grew 29% from 2017.

While sales of these products have exploded, development vegan protein it is a complex science. It takes years of research and testing to create a final product.

“Many academics are beginning to work in this area and are not familiar with the complexity of animal products and the physicochemical principles that are needed to assemble plant ingredients in these products, each with its own physical, functional, nutritional and sensory aspects. attributes, ”says McClements.

Perfecting the taste of vegan protein

Today there are many vegan proteins, but there is still room for improvement. Wanting to create better plant-based proteins, McClements organized a multidisciplinary team at UMass Amherst. Part of that team includes co-author and assistant professor Lutz Grossmann, who has experience with vegan proteins. They received funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Institute of Good Food for research and development.

“Our research has turned to this issue,” says McClements. He continues by saying this:

“There is a lot of innovation and investment in this area, and I am frequently contacted by different start-ups that are trying to make plant-based fish, eggs or cheese, but often have no experience in food science. . “

Plant-based foods continue to gain popularity and new products hit the market frequently. However, McClements says in the study that “a plant-based diet is not necessarily better than an omnivorous diet from a nutritional perspective.”

To replace meat, milk, and eggs, plant-based products must be fortified with certain micronutrients. Vegan protein does not have vitamin D, calcium, and zinc naturally, so they must be added. Companies must also ensure that plant-based proteins are digestible and have all the necessary amino acids.

Unfortunately, McClements says that many vegan proteins fall short in terms of health and taste. Most plant products are highly processed and full of saturated fat, salt, and sugar. This makes them tastier but not healthier than meat, far from it. However, McClements points out that highly processed foods don’t necessarily have to be unhealthy.

“We are trying to make processed foods healthier,” says McClements. “Our goal is to design them to have all the vitamins and minerals you need and to have health-promoting components like dietary fiber and phytochemicals so they taste good, are convenient and inexpensive, and that you can easily incorporate them into your life. That is the goal going forward, but we are not there yet for most products. “

The team will continue to refine vegan protein products. To create the healthiest and tastiest plant-based options, they are taking a holistic and multidisciplinary approach.

Four plant proteins to try

Meanwhile, you can choose from a large number of healthy plant products on the market. These are just a few options that provide nutritional value and taste great too:


Since tofu does not contain any additives and comes from whole soybeans, it is an ideal plant protein source. Make sure to choose non-GMO or organic products, if possible.


Like tofu tempeh comes from whole soybeans. However, tempeh is fermented. This process provides the added benefit of better digestion. You can also absorb more nutrients from this vegan protein. In fact, it contains more protein than tofu and has high amounts of calcium, manganese, and iron.

Beans and lentils:

When in doubt, add some beans or lentils to your meal. Many vegans and vegetarians consider beans a staple in their diet due to their fiber and protein content. In addition, they are a versatile ingredient; you can add them to salads, soups, stir fries, burritos, and more. Some people even do their own thing veggie burgers at home using beans.


Commonly known as “wheat meat,” seitan is made from wheat gluten. The texture is very similar to the proteins in meat and the taste resembles earthy mushrooms. However, with a little seasoning, it mimics the taste and texture of chicken quite well. Add it to salads, stir fries, or curries, or you can even grill it with veggies!

Final thoughts on how scientists are improving the taste of vegan protein

Vegan protein options seem limitless today. If you look in the frozen food section of your grocery store, you will probably notice a large meatless area. You can find anything from burgers to nuggets to breakfast sausages and everything in between. However, many of these products have a large number of ingredients and little to no nutritional value. Not to mention, not all of them taste like meat (some actually taste very different).

That’s why food scientists at the University of Massachusetts have taken it upon themselves to perfect the taste and quality of vegan protein. Companies like Beyond Meat gave the meat industry a run for its money. But there is still plenty of room for growth and innovation when it comes to lab-created meats.


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