International NGO the Physicians Association for Nutrition (PAN) has published a paper outlining its position on plant-based meat products.
PAN says it recommends legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and wholegrains as the healthiest and most environmentally sustainable protein options. However, the organization recognizes that plant-based meat products can provide a “healthy, sustainable and convenient alternative to meat”, particularly for those who have limited time or cooking skills.
According to PAN, there can be significant variations in nutritional value between different alt meat brands, and consumers should attempt to choose those which are low in saturated fat and salt. Opting for products that have been fortified with micronutrients such as vitamin B12 is also recommended.
The NGO says it supports plant-based meat brands in reformulating and fortifying their products to improve their nutritional value, in recognition that the industry has an important role to play in making healthy and sustainable food options widely available.
More research needed
PAN is calling for more R&D into alternative proteins to further improve public health and the sustainability of the food system. The organization also says that more high-quality research into the long-term impact of consuming meat alternatives is needed.
Existing studies increasingly suggest that plant-based meats are healthier than animal products — a paper authored last year by Dr. Chris Bryant of the University of Bath found that meat alternatives provide benefits for weight loss, muscle synthesis, gut health, and various health conditions. Furthermore, red and processed animal meats are recognized as carcinogens by the World Health Organization, whereas plant-based meats are not.
“These [alt meat] products are able to shift demand away from animal products, and are able to do this far more effectively than whole plant foods, as they hit the key drivers consumers are looking for – taste, price and convenience,” said Bryant. “I have found overwhelming evidence that, as well as being far more sustainable compared to animal products in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and land use, plant-based animal product alternatives also have a wide range of health benefits.”