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Is plant-based meat all it’s cracked up to be?

Plant-based meats are booming on supermarket shelves, with our latest Australian-first study showing that the category has grown a massive five-fold in number – up 429% – since just 2015. There are now a staggering 137 products on the shelf, ranging from ‘bleeding’ burgers, to nut roasts and plant-based tuna.

This research was published in October in the International journal Nutrients* and was presented at the Nutrition Society of Australia conference in Newcastle in early December. Data was collected from the four major Australian supermarkets, comparing plant-based meats to their animal-based equivalents.

Read the full paper here.

Researchers found that plant-based meats were generally lower in kilojoules, fats and protein and higher in carbohydrates and dietary fibre in comparison to their traditional animal-based meats.

One third of the products captured were made with protein-rich legumes such as beans and lentils, while 20% of plant-based burgers contained whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. GLNC Nutrition Manager Felicity Curtain points to these findings as opportunities to bridge gaps in the Australian diet.

“We know convenience is a major barrier to eating both whole grains and legumes, so if you’re looking at plant-based meats, choosing one made with these ingredients may be an easy step to getting more of these short-fall foods into your diet.”

But there is room for improvement in the category, with plant-based mince six times higher in sodium than its traditional counterpart, and less than a quarter of products fortified with nutrients like Vitamin B12, Iron, and Zinc, which are naturally contained in many animal-based meats.

Based on these findings, GLNC are calling for more guidance in the development of plant-based meats, alongside input from nutrition professionals to ensure consumers can make healthy choices at the supermarket shelf.

The plant-protein trend is predicted to continue well into 2020 and beyond; the impacts of which may be a ‘win-win’ for our health and the environment.

“Plant-based foods like beans, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, and whole grains are packed with nutrition, and have a smaller environmental impact compared to animal products,” said Ms Curtain.

Although some of the plant-based meats contain valuable nutrients from the whole grain and legume ingredients and offer a convenient option, it’s also beneficial to choose protein-rich whole foods on occasion too. Enjoying half a cup, or 100g, of beans, peas or lentils provides a valuable protein boost.

1 cup of legumes provides us with… World Pulses Day website

Alternatively, making your own plant-based burgers with a variety of whole grains and legumes is an excellent choice. Take a look at just how easy it is by trying our delicious Black Bean Burgers  or McKenzies Supergrain Burgers for dinner tonight!

Read the full paper here.

Reference

*Curtain, F.; Grafenauer, S. Plant-Based Meat Substitutes in the Flexitarian Age: An Audit of Products on Supermarket Shelves. Nutrients 2019, 11, 2603. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11112603

 

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