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January 12, 2021 - American Society for Nutrition

Do plant-based ultra-processed foods improve the nutritional quality of vegetarian diets?

Do plant-based ultra-processed foods improve the nutritional quality of vegetarian diets?
Burgers, higher processed plant-based foods© Photabulous!

Vegetarian diets are often characterized as having beneficial health effects due to their higher nutritional quality. However, not all vegetarian diets are alike in terms of foods choice. In general, there are three categories of vegetarian diets: pesco-vegetarians, vegetarians, and vegans. Pesco-vegetarians avoid meat but eat fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy foods. Vegetarians avoid meat, fish, and seafood but eat eggs and dairy foods. Vegans avoid all foods from animals.

Recent developments in the food industry have introduced a variety of new plant-based meat and dairy substitutes, some of which can be classified as ultra-processed foods. These includes foods with some additives (texturizers, dyes, emulsifiers, etc.) made from textured soy protein foods, quinoa, corn, and other cereals, legumes or pulses, and plant-based drinks made from soy, almond, or rice. Although the plethora of plant-based food alternatives for vegetarians may help make dietary planning easier, very little is known about the contribution of these ultra-processed foods to their diet, in relation to the nutritional quality.

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American Society for Nutrition

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