Following a plant based diet that consists of minimally or unprocessed plant foods has shown to be beneficial for overall health, and can lower one’s risk for heart disease or cancer (1). This looks like a diet built of foods such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and using moderate amounts of heart healthy oils such as olive oil, good quality canola or rapeseed oils. Diets like these tend to remain low in saturated fats, sodium and sugars.
Unfortunately, the same sort of health benefits do not apply to a plant based diet that consists of a large amount of processed or highly processed foods.
When we process foods we take an ingredient and transform it into a different form through methods like heat or chemical. The processing tends to strip the plant food of its nutrients, which means losing the factor that was most beneficial to our health (2). Highly processed foods take a number of different processed foods (salt, poor quality oils, artificial colours or sweeteners) and blend them to form a food item (candy bar). As well as losing beneficial nutrients, highly processed foods often gain sugars, additives or fats that can have negative impacts on our health.
Globally, there’s a big market for making vegan or vegetarian foods that mimic meat or dairy food items, but often a lot of processing has occurred to the plant food to get the desired result or mouth feel. A food item with ‘vegan’ on the label can appear healthy, but it’s important to look more closely, as it can be high in added fats, trans fats, salts, sugar and food additives e.g. vegan cheeses can be predominantly coconut oil and potato starch, or vegan meat alternatives can be high in coconut oil, sugar and flavour enhancers. These foods often lack essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, meaning a diet consisting mostly of over-processed vegan or vegetarian foods can leave us nutritionally deficient. When opting for vegan alternatives, make sure that the food still somewhat resembles its original form, that the ingredient list isn’t too long (with non-identifiable words), or isn’t too high in sugars or sodium, and enjoy these foods in moderation when you do.
Whilst following a healthy plant-rich diet can require a lot of planning, we take care of the details for you in our Veggie and Plant-Based food bags. We use plenty of unprocessed or minimally processed ingredients to build well-planned and balanced plates for our foodies, saving you the hassle.
1. Dinu M, Abbate R, Gensini GF et al. Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: a systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. Critical Reviews in Food Science Nutrition. 2017;57(17):3640-3649.
- Hever, J., & Cronise, R. J. (2017). Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Journal of geriatric cardiology : JGC, 14(5), 355–368.