Meat- and Fish Alternatives

Highly Processed Foods: Meat Alternatives Have a Good Nutritional Profile

With kind permission, you will find below a post by Professor Dr. Martin Smollich from the Institute for Nutritional Medicine in Lübeck on the often absurd discussion about highly processed foods.

Ultra-processed foods are not all the same!

Highly processed foods (ultra-processed foods / ) have a bad reputation: they are said to be “unhealthy” simply because they are highly processed – regardless of their nutrient or calorie content. From a nutritional perspective, this is pretty absurd.

A study now published in The Lancet ( not only confirms common sense but also previous studies: highly processed foods are NOT all the same: there are UPFs with very good and very poor nutritional profiles – exactly the same, as is also the case with less processed foods (see below).

The special thing about the current study: unlike usual, the UPF differentiates according to different food groups. The result: of all the UPFs, only meat products and soft drinks are associated with health disadvantages – other UPFs are not. There is NO negative connection, especially for highly processed meat alternatives. This is why the accusation that plant-based meat alternatives are “unhealthy” simply because they are highly processed is inaccurate.

A close-up of a burger patty
© Planetary

Incidentally, previous studies have delivered similar results (but these are mostly ignored in the reporting on UPF); for example:

  • Dutch Life Lines cohort: UPF consumption is associated with increased all-cause mortality (, but individual analysis only confirms this association for sugary soft drinks and processed meat. Highly processed whole grains and breakfast cereals are even associated with reduced mortality (
  • UK Biobank Cohort: The association of UPF consumption with increased cancer prevalence and mortality is almost entirely dominated by the “soft drinks” food group; other highly processed food groups (plant-based meat alternatives, foods containing sweeteners) do not play a role (

The classification “lowly processed = good” and “highly processed = bad” is therefore misleading when assessing the health of foods.

Chickpea Tofu Franklin Farms
©Franklin Farms

Some examples of HIGHLY processed foods (according to NOVA classification) with GOOD nutritional profiles:
– Whole grain bread
– Vegan meat alternatives
– Whole grain muesli with flakes
– Nutrient-enriched soy and oat drinks
– Vegetable spread
– Smoked tofu

Some examples of LOWLY processed foods (according to NOVA classification) with POOR nutritional profiles:
– Honey
– Sugar
– Butter & Cheese
– Fruit Juice
– Serrano Ham
– Salted Nuts

Click here to read the full post

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