Animal foods provide high-quality protein and essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin B12 often in a form that is easier to absorb and use. Evidence suggests that it is not necessary to cut out meat or other animal source foods from our diet to be more sustainable. But, we should also aim to expand our choice of protein-containing foods to include more plant-derived sources, such as beans and other pulses, nuts, seeds, and plant-based meat alternatives, for example those based on pulses such as soya or on mycoprotein, provided they are not high in saturated fat or salt. Traffic light labels on the front of packs are a handy way to check the saturated fat, salt and sugar content – go for more greens and ambers and fewer reds. Ready-prepared ‘plant-based’ foods have attracted a ‘health halo’ that is not always deserved. Some plant-based alternatives may not contain important vitamins and minerals found in animal-based equivalent products (such as the calcium and iodine provided by cow’s milk), so also check the label to see if the alternatives have been fortified.
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