Consuming plant-based meat in lieu of animal meat can deliver significant public health benefits, according to a new report from the Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe.
While the environmental benefits of choosing plant-based meat over animal meat have been verified by research, many academics and policymakers still have questions about the nutritional benefits.
Drawing on the most recent evidence, the GFI report provides a snapshot of the impacts of plant-based meat on health outcomes in Europe.
According to the report – which is based on surveys of plant-based meat products in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK – initial studies suggest that exchanging conventional meat for plant-based meat could reduce the risk of heart disease and bowel cancer, improve overall gut health, and help maintain a healthy weight.
The report showed that plant-based meat in Europe was a good fibre source and usually low in saturated fat, compared to low fibre and higher saturated fat in conventional meat, though both were high protein and low sugar.
Plant-based meat was also found to have only slightly fewer calories than conventional meat and similar salt content.
Additionally, Tthe report highlighted specific health concerns that have been raised with regard to plant-based meat, such as fortification and association with ultra-processed food (UPF).
GFI noted how plant-based meat including fortified ingredients cannot be certified organic even as meat from animals fed the same fortification can.
With regards to being associated with UPFs, GFI said that plant-based meats do not neatly fit the usual definitions – UPFs are often defined as being high in calories, high in sugar, high in saturated fat and low in fibre, characteristics that do not apply to plant-based meat.
The report also emphasised that the health benefits of plant-based meat extend to countering antimicrobial resistance, as plant-based meat production does not require antibiotics as conventional meat production does.
Plant-based meat health perceptions in Australia
Health has been shown to be one of the primary considerations for Australians in choosing plant-based meat products over conventional meat.
According to a recent Kerry report on consumer sensory perceptions of plant-based trends, 55% of Australians polled said they choose plant-based products because they consider them to be healthier than conventional meat.
The health factor came out ahead of eating plant-based products because they are better for the environment (41%).