Nutritional Composition of Ultra-Processed Plant-Based Foods in the Out-of-Home Setting: A Case-Study with Vegan Burgers

Reina Vellinga*, Elisabeth Temme, Holly Rippin, Carla Motta, Bryan Gonzales, Clare Farrand, Kremlin Wickramasinghe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Ultra-processed plant-based foods, such as plant-based burgers, have gained popularity and are perceived by consumers as a healthier and more environmentally sustainable alternative to animal-based foods. However, evidence regarding their nutritional profile and environmental sustainability is still evolving. Purpose: To contribute to the understanding of the nutrient profile of ultra-processed plant-based foods in the out-of-home environment. Methods: Cities in four WHO European Member States were selected for study in a convenience sample across the regions of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Lisbon, and London. Plant-based burgers available at selected out-of-home sites were randomly sampled. In total 41 plant-based burgers were lab-analyzed for their energy, macronutrients, amino-acids and minerals content per 100 g and per serving size. Descriptive data were used to summarize the nutritional composition per 100 g and serving size. The content per serving was compared to the appropriate reference values. Results: The median energy content was 234 kcal/100 g (IQR = 50). Median macronutrient composition was 20.8 g/100 g (IQR = 5.7) carbohydrates and 3.5 g/100 g (IQR = 1.8) dietary fibre. Protein content was 8.9 g/100 g (IQR = 3.7) with low protein quality. The median total fat content was 12.0 g/100 g (IQR = 4.2), including 0.08 g (IQR = 0.05) TFA and 2.2 g (IQR = 2.3) SFA. The median sodium content was 389 mg/100 g (IQR = 113), equivalent to 2.7 g salt. When compared with reference values, the median serving of plant-based burgers (280 g) provided 31% of energy intake and contributed 17–28% of carbohydrates, 42% of dietary fibre, 40% of protein, and 48% of total fat including 26% of SFA. The burgers had low-quality protein. One serving provided 15–20% of the reference values for calcium, potassium, and magnesium, while higher contributions were found for zinc (30%), manganese (38%), phosphorus (51%), and iron (67%). Conclusion: Ultra-processed plant-based foods, such as plant-based burgers, provide protein, dietary fibre, and essential minerals. They also contain high levels of energy, sodium, and fatty acids. Despite their potential as a source of protein, the quality of protein in plant-based burgers is low. The multifaceted nutritional profile of plant-based burgers highlights the need for manufacturers to implement improvements to better support healthy dietary habits. These improvements should include reducing salt and fatty acids while also enhancing protein quality.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalProceedings
Volume91
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2023

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