Vegan meat alternatives may be less healthy than their meat counterparts

Big brands often latch onto the annual Veganuary, launching new plant-based options.

Veganuary has caused a stir in the plant sphere, as thousands of people across the UK are ditching their usual diets to adopt a meat and dairy free eating plan.

Big brands often hook up with the annual January event, offering new plant-based options. Subway, for example, launched a new TLC option (Tastes.Like.Chicken), while KFC launched plant-based nuggets.

Meat alternatives are proving popular as companies seek to tap into the market, but research has shown they are unhealthy and can be classified as ‘ultra-processed’ foods.

This was first identified by Brazilian academics as part of the NOVA classification.

Ultra-processed foods are accepted by health experts as unhealthy and possibly addictive, and a reason behind rising rates of obesity and poor health around the world.

NOVA has four different classifications for foods, with “Unprocessed or Minimally Processed Foods” being reserved for raw ingredients such as fruits and vegetables.

Wagamama today launches a new vegan “fish and chips” made with pea, soy and rice protein

The second category is for cooking ingredients, which cover the tastes of flour and oil.

The third, processed foods, includes the tastes of cheese and tofu.

The fourth and final category, that of ultra-processed foods, is reserved for a large part of the vegan alternatives offered by fast food chains and supermarkets.

NOVA describes this classification as: “in particular flavorings, colorings, sweeteners, emulsifiers and other additives used to imitate the sensory qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations or to mask the undesirable qualities of the final product “.

NOVA’s research suggests that the range of vegan options readily available this month fall into this category, meaning they’re often much more unhealthy than their meat-based counterparts.

While a grilled chicken breast would be considered minimally processed or, in some cases, “processed” if salt and oil are added, “plant-based chicken gudgeons” can be classified as ultra-processed. , containing more than 30 ingredients, including methylcellulose, maltodextrin and dried ingredients. glucose syrup.

Despite this, the food industry continued to push the products, even the term “plant-based” was adopted to give more positive connotations.

The word ‘plant’ can be associated with nature, health and fresh air, and Sainsbury’s Plant Pioneers range reinforces this, as a green leaf stands out from the logo.

Despite this, companies offering meatless options argue that the food on offer is better for the planet, as well as your health.

A Quorn spokesperson told the Independent in 2021: “We don’t recognize the ‘ultra-processed’ label – our protein is grown from a naturally occurring nutritious fungus, using the age-old method of fermentation, then steamed, chilled and frozen to create Quorn products”.