This time of year sees many people looking to change their diets and adopt a ‘healthier lifestyle’, for some that can mean looking for alternatives to meat. As a result, there is growing interest and development in the creation of meat style alternatives. Currently only 4% of the UK population are #vegan or #vegetarian, however 70% of buyers of #plant-based meat alternatives are meat-eaters, proving just how mainstream the products have become. People are choosing plant-based diets for a variety of reasons, including concern for the treatment of animals, health reasons, environmental concerns or taste, and if they are well planned, they can support healthy living throughout life. For those reaching for meat alternatives for their perceived health benefits, worrying news has been published by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics regarding the #salt content of many of the products.
Marketing strategies used by producers of plant-based meat alternatives often focuses on terms such as “clean” or “green”, leading the consumer to believe that they must only provide a positive impact to our health. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is an independent, scientific body that advises policy makers, and has highlighted just how highly processed many meat alternative products are. The council gave examples of two meat alternative products, Beyond Burger, widely sold in the UK, and Impossible Burger, sold in the US, and admitted that there were some advantages to the products over meat but that they are
“highly processed and incorporate purified plant protein rather than whole foods, contain similar levels of calories and saturated fat as beef burgers, and have much higher levels of sodium and iron”
The main concern experts have is that the long-term health effects of soy and other ingredients developed to create meat alternatives, are unknown. More evidence is needed to assess the impacts they may have on human health. Whether following a meat or a plant-based diet the strongest evidence is that avoiding processed foods is best for health.