Is meat-free really healthier?

Meat-free alternatives to meat products are growing in popularity. The main selling point of these products being that they are a “healthier” option. But are they really any better for us? According to a recent campaign by the group Action on Salt, they might be even worse.

The group tested a number of products. They found that many of them exceeded the recommended salt water. Some were found to contain more salt than sea-water. For example, certain meat-free burgers contained more salt than meat burgers, having an average salt content of 0.89g per serving, compared with 0.75g per serving in the burgers made of meat.

And burgers weren’t the only products found to contain high levels of salt.

Among some of the other products tested, some of the worst offenders included Tofurky’s Deli Slices Hickory Smoked and Tesco’s Meat Free 8 Bacon Style Rashers. Both of these products contain more salt than sea-water per 100g. Additionally, there was a very large difference between the products. In fact, the difference between the least salty and most salty products was 83%.

In light of these findings, the group are calling for the government to take action.

As Action on Salt nutritionist Mhairi Brown said in an interview: “The food industry have ensured greater availability of meat-free alternatives, but now they must do more to ensure that meat-free alternatives contain far less salt – at the very least lower than their meat equivalents. This survey drives home the urgent need for Public Health England to reinvigorate the UK’s salt reduction strategy.”

Although a lot of other food products contain more salt than is recommended, the group say that one of the biggest concerns with meat-free products is that consumers assume they are healthy. As well as this, they point out that processed meat-free products are often “concealing” the salt content, and that many don’t include colour-coded labeling on the front of the packaging.

Chair of the campaign group, Graham MacGregor, who is also a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, noted: “Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to reduce the number of people dying or suffering from entirely unnecessary strokes and heart disease.”

“Given the vast amounts of strokes and heart disease that could be avoided and huge savings to the NHS, it is incomprehensible that Public Health England are not doing more to reduce the amount of salt in our food. We are again calling on PHE to take urgent action.”

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