The salt content of plant-based meat is significantly higher than in meat equivalents, with more than three out of four plant-based meat products exceeding the salt targets, according to the health campaign Action on Salt.
In what it called the first study to examine the nutritional profile and overall health of plant-based meat available in the UK, researchers from the group analyzed 207 plant-based meat products against 226 meat products. The products were categorized into six main groups: sausages, burgers, regular poultry alternatives, breaded poultry alternatives, farce and meatballs.
They found that plant-based meat had significantly fewer calories, total and saturated fat, and more fiber than the meat equivalents. However, their salt content was significantly higher than meat in five out of six product categories.
The salt content of plant-based meat products turned out to be “unnecessarily high”, the research said, with more than 75% of the products studied not meeting the UK government’s salt reduction targets.
Only two (examined) plant-based products will be considered low salt with a green label on the front of the package (ie <0.3g / 100g), compared to 45 meat products.
According to researchers, plant-based foods often have a perceived ‘health halo’ (ie a product is automatically assumed to be healthy simply because it is vegetarian or vegan). But this research highlights that these foods may still be high in salt, they said.
Overall, more than three out of four plant-based products studied did not reach their respective salt reduction targets – making it even more relevant, proponents said, for the food industry to prioritize salt reduction: what they described as the most cost-effective strategy. to improve public health.
The research also claimed to highlight how unnecessarily high salt content some products are, with similar products providing varying levels of salt content (see table below). The researchers said that this clearly shows that the salt content of these products can be easily reduced.
Action on Salt now calls on the government to reintroduce a coherent salt reduction policy by imposing the salt targets so that all food producers must comply and give them equal terms.
In response, a spokesman for Birds Eye said: “Plant-based protein sources are playing an increasingly important role in the health of both humans and the planet, and our Green Cuisine range offers a range of nutritional benefits, including being rich in protein, a source of fiber and iron. We have an active salt reduction program in place that is tailored to the Department of Health 2024 targets to reduce salt on any individual product – in this case the Green Cuisine Burger – that does not currently meet our own strict salt targets. “,
Roberta Alessandrini, researcher in public health nutrition, Queen Mary University of London and lead author of the study said: “Plant-based meat is a healthier alternative to meat, as it has fewer calories and less saturated fat. However, our data show that the salt content of these products is unnecessarily high. Manufacturers have a crucial role to play in providing consumers with products that are not only better for the planet and the animals, but that are 100% healthy and low in salt. “,
Sonia Pombo, Campaign Manager for Action on Salt and co-author of the study, added: “These data show the great variation in the salt content of these products, with some food companies producing foods with up to six times more salt than their competitors. It is no wonder that we all eat too much salt when food companies use it to such an extent. Reducing salt is clearly possible; it is time for these companies to act more responsibly for the sake of our health. “,
According to Action on Salt, salt is the main factor raising our blood pressure, with high blood pressure responsible for 60% of all strokes and 50% of all heart disease, the biggest killers in the UK. The group claimed that more than 2 million people die each year from eating too much salt. It also pointed to new research suggesting that there is evidence that lower salt consumption and higher potassium intake are associated with lower risk of stroke and heart disease. While there is strong evidence that increased salt intake causes an increase in blood pressure, few studies have suggested that lower salt intake may be associated with increased mortality.
The study, published last month in New England Journal of Medicine.,also claimed to confirm that increased potassium intake is associated with reducing stroke and heart disease. Potassium has the opposite effect in the body to salt – it can help relax the blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Rich sources of potassium include fruits, green leaves, beans and nuts.
Nutritional quality of plant-based meat products available in the UK: A cross-sectional study,