When reaching for that meat-free alternative in the supermarket, you would be forgiven for thinking you were picking a healthier option.
But a new study has found popular vegan products in Australian supermarkets are packed with salt, with some containing up to half-a-day’s worth in a single serve.
Nutrition experts are now urging the industry to set salt targets for meat-free meals.
Medical researchers at the George Institute for Global Health surveyed 190 products in 2019, exposing their salt contents in a report jointly published by the Heart Foundation on Wednesday.
Meat-free bacon, or “facon”, was among the worst offenders, containing more than a third-of-day’s worth of salt.
Falafel and meat-free sausages came second and third for the highest average amounts of salt.
One vegan pie tested contained an eye-watering half of the daily recommended salt intake.
Eating too much salt is linked with high blood pressure and is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.
Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong is urging consumers to check the labels and pick less salty options, as some meat-free products can be highly processed and lacking in nutrients.
Options with less than 120mg of sodium per 100g are best.
“It’s critical not to rely on words or images that make a product appear healthier than it is,” Armstrong said.
The report’s lead author, Clare Farrand, said there had been no change to the amount of salt in meat-alternative products for nearly 10 years.
Farrand said the UK had reduced salt intakes by setting voluntary targets.
While salt targets for food were on the way in Australia, there were none for meat-free alternatives, she said.