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The nutritional profile of plant-based meat analogues available for sale in Australia

Melville H, Shahid M, Gaines A, McKenzie B, Alessandrini R, Trieu K, Wu J, Rosewarne E, Coyle D (2023) Nutrition and Dietetics  Jan 18 doi: 10.1111/1747-0080.12793 

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Abstract:

Aim: To assess the nutritional quality of plant-based meat analogues in Australia, compared to equivalent meat products, and to assess levels of micronutrient fortification in meat analogues.

Methods: This cross-sectional study used nutrition composition data for products collected in 2021 from major supermarkets in Australia. Nutritional quality was assessed using the Health Star Rating, energy (kJ), protein (g), saturated fat (g), sodium (mg), total sugars (g), and fibre content (g) per 100 g, and level of food processing using the NOVA classification. Proportion of products fortified with iron, vitamin B12 and zinc were reported. Differences in health star rating and nutrients between food categories were assessed using independent t-tests.

Results: Seven hundred ninety products (n = 132 plant-based and n = 658 meat) across eight food categories were analysed. Meat analogues had a higher health star rating (mean 1.2 stars, [95% CI: 1.0-1.4 stars], p < 0.001), lower mean saturated fat (-2.4 g/100 g, [-2.9 to -1.8 g/100 g], p < 0.001) and sodium content (-132 mg/100 g, [-186 to -79 mg/100 g], p < 0.001), but higher total sugar content (0.7 g/100 g, [0.4-1.1 g/100 g], p < 0.001). Meat analogues and meat products had a similar proportion of ultra-processed products (84% and 89%, respectively). 12.1% of meat analogues were fortified with iron, vitamin B12 and zinc.

Conclusion: Meat analogues generally had a higher health star rating compared with meat equivalents, however, the nutrient content varied. Most meat analogues were also ultra-processed and few are fortified with key micronutrients found in meat. More research is needed to understand the health impact of these foods.

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