Pitfalls in a vegetarian or vegan diet
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Pitfalls in a vegetarian or vegan diet

  • 23 August 2021

In the production of meat substitutes, the emphasis for producers is mainly on replacing animal proteins with vegetable proteins and less on a healthy composition of the product, according to Ciaran Forde, professor at Wageningen University.

Forde and his colleague Rachel Tso compared the nutrient content of traditional and new plant-based diets to a traditional animal based diet. Their conclusion in their recent article in Nutrients is that diets that comprise many new plant-based meat and dairy alternatives often contain higher levels of sugar, fat and salt and lower levels of fibres, minerals and vitamins.


Tso and Forde compared a traditional animal based diet with daily intakes across a flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diet, all three with healthy and unhealthy variants. All diets were matched for protein and energy content and were compared by the overall daily intake of important macro- and micro-nutrients consumed. Whereas traditional flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets met the requirements for micro-nutrients and protein, the diets dominated by novel plant-based meat and dairy alternatives had higher salt, sugar, fat and carbohydrate intakes, and shortfalls in important nutrients and vitamins.


Forde says that vegetarian diets can be both healthier and better for the environment than diets high in red meat, but warns that consumers need to be aware of the potential pitfalls when transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet where the omission of important nutrient sources could have health consequences. “Consumers aiming to become vegans need to consider the foods they are removing or adding when developing new strategies to ensure a balanced diet with enough proteins, minerals and vitamins.”


Source: Wageningen University & Research