Plant-based meats may not be as healthy as we thought

Credit: LikeMeat / Unsplash.

Plant-based meat is used to describe food that is designed to mimic or imitate animal meat products.

These products are claimed to be healthy, vegetarian, and tasty.

But in a study from The University of Sydney and elsewhere, scientists found that although plant-based meat products are generally healthier than real meat products, they can be higher in sugar and are often lacking important nutrients found in real meat.

In the current study, researchers aimed to assess the nutritional quality of plant-based meat analogs in Australia, compared to real meat products.

They used nutrition data for products collected in 2021 from major supermarkets in Australia.

The nutritional quality of plant-based meats and real meats was examined using the Health Star Rating, energy (kJ), protein (g), saturated fat (g), sodium (mg), total sugars (g), and fiber content (g) per 100 g, and level of food processing.

The proportion of products fortified with iron, vitamin B12, and zinc was reported.

In the study, 790 products, including 132 plant-based and 658 meat products across eight food categories were examined.

The team found that plant-based meat products had a higher health star rating, lower saturated fat, and lower sodium content, but higher sugar content.

Plant-based meat and real meat products had a similar proportion of ultra-processed products.

Only about 12% of plant-based meat products were fortified with iron, vitamin B12, and zinc.

Based on the findings, the researchers conclude that plant-based meat products generally have a higher health star rating compared with real meats. However, the nutrient content can be quite different.

Most plant-based meat products are also ultra-processed and few are fortified with key micronutrients found in meat.

The team suggests that more research is needed to understand the health impact of these plant-based meat products.

The study was conducted by Maria Shahid et al and published in Nutrition & Dietetics.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and this plant nutrient could help reduce high blood pressure.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies that zinc could help reduce COVID-19 infection risk, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

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