Junk plant foods

There is a growing voice in favor of having more plant-based foods. Experts and environmentalists are urging people to minimize on meat and non-vegetarian foods and opt for veggies and foods from the plant kingdom.

Plant-based diets are good for health as well as the environment. But some plant-sourced foods are not healthy and hence included in the category of junk plant foods. These foods can cause more harm than good and one should avoid them.

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Plant-based diet

Plants as sources of food are good for health. These have a lot of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. They have zero or minimal sugar.

The carbs are complex. Due to this, these foods do not cause a rise in blood pressure or increase the risk of heart disease. They reduce blood cholesterol and weight and are light to digest.

They promote brain and gut health and prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus. Humans get a lot of health benefits by using foods from plants.

Junk plant foods
Junk plant foods (Source: Styles at life)

Moreover, these foods are eco-friendly and carbon-neutral. They do not leave a lot of carbon footprints that are detrimental to the environment, climate, and the planet.

Hence, these would positively affect climate and help in halting global warming and its disasters such as drought, extremes of temperatures, and flooding.

Hence, experts are asking people to switch to predominantly plant-based foods. But despite this advocacy, there are certain plant foods as well that are not healthy.

They can harm the body and hence one should avoid consuming them. Which are these junk plant foods?

Junk plant foods

All plant foods are not equally good. Some are valuable whereas others can also be harmful to the body. The ones that are unhealthy are those that are ultra-processed.

This means that the foods have minimal whole foods but are loaded with sugars, unhealthy fats, salt, calories, and cheap food additives.

They have less nutritional value compared to whole foods. These junk foods from the plant source are:

Processed bakery products such as bread, pastries, cakes, and cookies.

Pre-packed snacks

Carbonated drinks and sodas

Flavored milk drinks

Breakfast cereals

Energy bars

Instant soups, sauces, noodles, and desserts.

Junk plant foods
Junk plant foods that are highly processed (Source: Health line)

Problems with these foods

These foods are convenience foods. They are useful when one has a busy life with no time for cooking. Occasional consumption is okay but if taken daily, it could be harmful to the body.

In many countries including the USA, sadly these foods have become a major part of the daily diet. But their frequent consumption comes with a lot of negative health effects.

A 2019 cohort study on 105159 adults studied over 5 years showed that a 10% increase in eating of these ultra-processed plant foods led to an elevated risk of heart ailments and also stroke.

Junk plant foods
Instant noodles and sauces (Source: Wikipedia)

It can also cause high chances of certain cancers, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and also toxicity from the harmful chemicals present in these foods.

Also, vegans and vegetarian eaters often eliminate healthy foods from their diet. This could land them in nutritional deficiencies. Calcium, iron, and vitamin B12 are often less in people on solely plant-based foods.

These problems arise if only ultra-processed plant foods are consumed.

Read more: Is a vegetarian diet healthy for children and toddlers?

To avoid or overcome these problems, decrease the intake of these ultra-processed foods. Instead opt for healthy and fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, eggs, low-fat dairy products, and sea foods.