Plant-based Ultra Processed Junk Foods

A recent CNN Foods article discusses that, adopting a plant-based diet can not only lower the risk of chronic diseases and increase lifespan, it also benefits the planet. However, it cautions against assuming that all plant-based foods are healthy, highlighting that processed foods like boxed macaroni, frozen pizza, fast-food fries, and sugary desserts are not nutritious choices, despite being plant-based.

Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, United Kingdom, told the CNN in a statement that though plant-based ultraprocessed foods are meat-free they are not without risk.

We can’t always assume plant-based means healthy, as after all sugar is plant-based. Many foods that do not contain animal products, which includes biscuits, crisps, confectionary and soft drinks, are technically plant-based but would not be considered essential as part of a healthy diet by the majority of people.

– Duane Mellor on CNN

It’s known that eating plant-based junk foods, can raise bad cholesterol, blood pressure and lead to heart diseases. Renata Levy, a researcher in the Epidemiological Research Center in Nutrition and Health at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, told CNN: “Eating plant-based products can be beneficial, acting as protection against health problems, or it can represent a risk — it all depends on the level of processing of these foods”.

Ultraprocessed foods undergo multiple industrial processes, such as heating, fracking of nutrients and proteins, molding and compression, and have added chemicals to cosmetically alter color, smell, taste and texture. Foods in this category are formulated to be hyper-palatable to human taste buds and are often extremely convenient, requiring little to no preparation time.

Unprocessed foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs and milk. Minimally processed foods include culinary ingredients such as salt, herbs and oils, and foods such as canned goods and frozen vegetables that combine culinary ingredients with unprocessed foods.

– From CNN Health

A recent study, published in the journal The Lancet Regional Health — Europe, which reportedly utilized data collected from the UK Biobank, a longitudinal study that included more than 118,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69 years old participants from England, Scotland and Wales.

The study found that “ultraprocessed foods made from plants increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by 5% while increasing the risk of early death by 13%”.

“It is well accepted that well-balanced plant-based diets such as the Mediterranean or DASH diets are favorable for cardiovascular health and these already emphasize avoiding unhealthy foods such as crisps etc., sugar sweetened beverages, cakes, biscuits and confectionary. These latter foods are unhealthy regardless of whether they are made industrially or home-made,” Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, told CNN in a statement.