Why food quality needs to be considered in vegetarian diet?

Benjamin Allès is an epidemiologist in nutrition and researcher at INRA. His research projects aim to study plant-based diets, in particular vegetarian diets, with a focus on socio-demographic determinants and sustainability. His work sheds new light on the nutritional quality of vegetarian diets. Here are some highlights…

A vegetarian diet needs to consider food quality

Dietary guidelines around the world now concur in promoting higher intakes of plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grain products. This consensus can be explained both by the health aspect of these foods, and, for the most part, by their modest environmental footprint.

However, while some of these guidelines draw attention to the quality of plant foods to be consumed, others do not. This disparity leads to eating habits and choices that can be less healthy. Indeed, it has been shown that people who exclude meat from their diet, but do not choose the right plant-based foods are, for example, equally at risk of coronary heart disease.

In other words, given the need for a vegetarian diet to be well balanced to avoid deficiencies, it is all the more important to choose carefully the plant-based products that make it up. A recent study carried out by Benjamin Allès and the EREN team, based on the NutriNet-Santé cohort, looked into this issue. Monitoring the food consumption of the vegetarian population reveals, especially among the youngest, a significant share of ultra-processed plant foods and/or foods of poor nutritional quality.

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Benjamin Allès

About Benjamin Allès

Benjamin Allès joined INRA and the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN) of the Centre de recherche sur l’épidémiologie et les statistiques, Université de Paris and Université Paris 13 (CRESS) in 2014. He has developed expertise in identifying dietary habits based on the NutriNet-Santé cohort study, using various statistical methods. His current research projects include work on the assessment of physical activity levels and the use of dietary supplements among vegetarians taking part in the Nutrinet-Santé study.