A new report by Australia and New Zealand-based non-profit think tank Food Frontier finds that plant-based meats are on average healthier than their animal meat counterparts. For the study, the analysts examined the nutritional profile and health rating of around 100 plant-based substitutes on the market and compared them with a similar real meat product.
The report, titled Plant-Based Meat: A Healthier Choice?, is a first-of-its-kind analysis of the health and nutritional profile of plant-based meat products that are on the market in Australia and New Zealand. Researchers compared the nutrition averages of plant-based meats to its conventional counterparts across different categories, including sausages, bacon, burgers, mince, schnitzels and chicken-style pieces.
The main finding of the report is that plant-based meat substitutes contain on average higher or comparable levels of protein, less sodium and considerably less saturated fat. A majority of the plant-based meats sampled were also found to be a source of health-promoting dietary fibre, whereas conventional meat is not.
This report provides an evidence-based, data-driven analysis to answer questions on nutrition, processing, ingredients and more, and brings context to the conversation by unpacking how plant-based meats compare to conventional meats in equivalent formats.Thomas King, CEO of Food Frontier
Researchers also examined other factors that could influence the health of a product, from the level of processing to the ingredients used, as well as the public health risks associated with high intake of conventional meats.
Except for plant-based mince, which had the same health rating as regular meat mince, all plant-based meat products sampled fared better on health indices.
“This report provides an evidence-based, data-driven analysis to answer questions on nutrition, processing, ingredients and more, and brings context to the conversation by unpacking how plant-based meats compare to conventional meats in equivalent formats,” said Thomas King, CEO of Food Frontier.
While previous analyses have focused on the health benefits of whole foods sources of plant protein, such as legumes and grains, this report is one of the first to make a direct comparison between the nutritional profile of novel plant-based meats and conventional animal meats.
Last week, a Stanford Medicine study commissioned by food tech giant Beyond Meat found that participants who ate plant-based meat substitutes instead of animal meat saw a significant reduction in TMAO and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, both of which are associated with higher risk of various cardiovascular diseases.
Consumers who want to reduce their meat consumption and are seeking a protein-packed alternative should know that plant-based meats can serve as a healthier option than similar conventional meats.Teri Lichtenstein, co-author of the report
Food Frontier’s report presents additional evidence for consumers about how plant-based meats are a healthier direct swap compared to real meat.
“Consumers who want to reduce their meat consumption and are seeking a protein-packed alternative should know that plant-based meats can serve as a healthier option than similar conventional meats,” said Teri Lichtenstein, co-author of the report and an accredited practising dietitian.
Commenting on the report findings to the Sydney Morning Herald, Lichtenstein added that the “gold standard” remains a diet that encompasses as many plant-based whole foods as possible, but plant-based meats can be a tasty and convenient solution for those who find it difficult to make dramatic dietary behavioural changes towards healthier food choices.
She added that consumers can also try to differentiate between different plant-based meat products by choosing those that have lower amounts of sodium and higher amounts of dietary fibre.
Lead image courtesy of Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images.