In a new study, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found that a variety of plant-based foods have the highest amounts of protein and calcium, and are among the most nutrient-dense foods in the world.
“The world’s population is currently eating a diet that is extremely high in salt, sugar and fat,” Dr Michael Greenstone, a professor of nutritional science at the university, told ABC News.
“There’s a lot of concern around these things and this study really helps us to understand why.”
The study involved analysing food labels from over 50 countries to compare the nutritional content of each food item.
Dr Greenstone said that many people, particularly those in developing countries, were consuming a high-salt diet because of the increased risks of obesity and cardiovascular disease, which are closely linked to the consumption of processed foods.
“They’re eating a lot more sodium and a lot less fibre,” Dr Greenfield said.
“We’re seeing a growing body of evidence that suggests that these nutrients in the food we’re eating are not being used efficiently by the body.”
So this is an opportunity to look at the nutrition content of the foods we’re consuming, and what they’re actually eating.
“Dr Greenstone is one of a number of scientists working to understand the health benefits of a variety, if not all, of plant foods.
The researchers looked at foods that were grown locally or imported from abroad and had been shown to have beneficial effects on human health, such as improving heart health and reducing the risk of colorectal cancer.”
What we’re trying to do is understand why these nutrients are important, and the effects they have on health,” Dr Dr Greenstons research partner, Dr Rebecca Jones, said.
The study found that vegetables had the highest levels of protein, calcium and vitamin B12, while pulses, legumes and fruit had the lowest levels.
But Dr Greenstein said that despite these high levels of nutrients, the main reason many people were consuming these foods was because they were labelled as being healthy.”
You’re probably going to eat a lot fewer calories because it’s been labelled as healthy, but you’re not eating those nutrients that are really needed to keep your body healthy,” he said.
What are the health effects of processed food?
The study also found that processed foods like chips, cakes and biscuits had the most high levels and nutrients, followed by processed foods such as processed fruit and processed vegetable oils.
However, the study did not include foods that had not been labelled to have a nutrient-rich or nutrient-poor content.
For example, the authors found that the most expensive foods were the cheapest and the least nutrient-depleting.”
But that’s because the cost is still such a huge factor,” Dr Jones said.
One reason for the high price of processed items was that they were often packaged with artificial ingredients, and Dr Greenstreet said that the chemicals used to flavour processed foods were often carcinogenic.”
It’s the same chemical that is used to make the artificial sweeteners that’s used to fill the calories in packaged foods,” he told ABC.”
In many cases, the ingredients that we’re adding to the food are highly toxic, and those chemicals have been shown in studies to be carcinogenic.
“The report has also found a link between processed food consumption and increased consumption of other foods that are not always associated with the plant foods they are added to.”
I think there’s an increasing recognition that processed food is associated with a lot healthier eating patterns,” Dr Williams said.
Dr Greenfield’s study is just one part of the ongoing research into the health and environmental benefits of plant based foods.
Dr Jones said that although the findings from the University’s study do not suggest that plant based food is healthier, they are helping to bring awareness to the nutritional importance of plants.”
If you look at a range of plant food sources that are high in protein and high in calcium, those are also all sources of nutrients that have been linked to improved health,” she said.