As is so typical of commercialism and capitalism, in this instance the manufacturers of vegan food have managed to make it unhealthy, perhaps even more unhealthy than what we consider to be unhealthy foods. Some vegan meals contain more salt than seven McDonald’s hamburgers. And vegan meat substitutes can be just another form of junk food according to Henry Dimbleby, author of last year’s national food strategy in the UK.
He has attacked highly processed vegan substitutes for meat because on some occasions they become like junk food as a result of very high levels of salt and fat.
He bought a bag of frozen vegan chicken-like nuggets for his daughter after the COP26 climate change conference in November. She loved them. The reason?
“The reason she loved them is that they were junk food. They were clearly high in salt, fat. They had a lot of monosodium glutamate in them, which was what made them so moreish. They were just as bad for you-and maybe even worse for you-then fried chicken nuggets.”
Although vegan meat substitutes are better for the environment and help to curb global warming, because they don’t have the natural flavours of meat which many humans like a lot, manufacturers have decided to add a lot of salt. Salt is bad for us in high quantities. For example, it pushes up blood pressure.
Mr Dimbleby has a national food strategy which recommends a levy of £3 per kilogram on sugar and £6 per kilogram on salt sold to companies and restaurants.
The UK government is apparently looking at this proposal and will make an announcement in March, Mr Dimbleby said.
Dimbleby is one of the founders of the Leon fast-food chain. He believes that the country has a real opportunity to create healthier British versions of vegan food.
In defence of the meat industry, Stuart Roberts, deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union said that people can both reduce their carbon footprint and continue to enjoy meat and dairy products. He says that in the UK greenhouse gas emissions from beef production are half that of the global average. And the meat industry has an ambition to do even more. They are working towards net zero food production by 2040.
He argues that when British citizens buy British meat and dairy they are buying “sustainable, local food, produced in areas often where it is difficult to grow other foods. The same cannot be said for plant-based proteins.”
Health guidelines state that adults should eat no more than 6 g of salt a day. This is the equivalent of around 1 teaspoon. It is also the equivalent of 2.4 g of sodium. For children aged 1-3 the upper limit is 2 g of salt a day (0.8 g of sodium) and for children 4-6 the upper limit is 3 g of salt a day (1.2 g of sodium). This information comes from the NHS in the UK.
People can become addicted to salt and sugar. I have a slight sugar addiction which is a constant battle for me. I am winning the battle. I reduce my blood pressure by minimising salt. However, I like salt as much as anybody else.
How do you tame your salt habit? The only way is to gradually reduce the amount of salt on your food until you adapt to the new taste. What one considers to be a nice taste can be altered through a regime of gradual change until you find your old preferences tasting horrible.
Although a human body requires some sodium to function properly, there can be too much. The kidneys balance the amount of sodium in the body. When sodium is high the kidneys release some in urine. If they can’t release enough it builds up in the blood. Sodium attracts and holds water. The amount of water in the blood goes up. And so, the blood quantity goes up. The heart must work harder to pump blood which increases pressure in the arteries. This increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
Some people are more sensitive to excess amounts of sodium in their blood than others. I won’t go on but it’s going to require a change of diet for some people. They need to eat more fresh food, choose low-sodium products, eat at home rather than in restaurants, stop buying pre-processed meals from supermarkets, remove salt from recipes whenever possible, replace salt with herbs, spices and other flavourings and go easy on the condiments. 😢.