Are alternatives to vegan meat endangering our health?

Veganism is generally equated with healthy eating, but the fake bacon, sausages and burgers produced in the factory today could tarnish the halo of a plant-based diet. New scientist investigates


October 27, 2021

Kyle bean

DONALD Watson was born in Yorkshire and spent much of his youth on his uncle’s farm. But rather than making him comfortable with raising animals for food, the realization that these “friendly creatures” would be slaughtered horrified him. He became a vegetarian in 1924, at the age of 14. Two decades later, along with his wife and four friends, he coined the word vegan from the first and last parts of the word vegetarian and founded the UK Vegan Society.

Watson’s diet consisted mainly of nuts, apples, dried fruits, vegetables and, when war rations permitted, lentils. Fast forward to today, and Watson would have been amazed at the wealth of vegan offerings. Browse the aisles of supermarkets in the UK, US, Australia and beyond and you’ll find an increasing amount of space dedicated to vegan alternatives to fish and meat. But while Watson’s diet has proven to be healthy, a different picture emerges for some of today’s vegans.

Take a look at the ingredients in the ever-growing variety of products and they may look more like junk food, filled with salt and ingredients like “soy protein concentrate” that you won’t find in a cut of meat.

While today’s factory-produced foods make it easy to switch to a vegan diet without the need for drastic dietary changes, these alternatives could be worse for our health than the meat-based versions they replace. Knowledge is increasingly important, due to the growing number of people who are avoiding meat and dairy products in their diets. So what do we know – and don’t we know -?

When Watson applied for the vegan …