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Vegetarian junk food panned

Researchers say there are plenty of plant-based unhealthy dietary choices out there

Medical researchers have long said plant-based diets are healthier — but it turns out what type of plant-based foods matter a lot.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and other ‘basic’ plant foods can in fact lower the risk of heart disease, result in less obesity and other positive impacts. But a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looked at data from 200,000 people and discovered another alarming trend.

Many were choosing highly processed plant-based foods like processed snacks, sugary cereal and fake bacon in the mistaken belief they were healthy. In fact they’re the opposite, and a high intake of these foods were found to cause a higher risk of heart disease. This negative impact was consistent when the researchers controlled for age, sex, BMI, and family history.

Boiled down the researchers found plant-based diets that did not include pro­cessed food were the healthiest. The next best choice was diets that included plenty of whole fruits and vegetables but little processed food. The worst diets were the ones — vegan, vegetarian or including meat — that were high in processed foods.

“These studies of vegetarian and vegan diets haven’t distinguished between different qualities of plant food,” says lead author Ambika Satija, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. “Certain plant foods, like whole grains and fruits and vegetables, are associated with lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But other plant foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, are actually associated with increased risk.”

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