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Processed meat can also have high levels of sodium, nitrates and nitrites. Plant-based foods, on the other hand, are rich in essential nutrients, such as fibre, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that dampen inflammation.

Researchers in Germany analysed 37 published studies to assess the benefits of switching from red and processed meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products to plant-based foods such as beans, nuts, whole grains, oils, fruit and vegetables.

They found marked reductions in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and a lower risk of dying from any cause during the periods covered by the studies, especially when red and processed meats were replaced with plant-based foods.

The risk of cardiovascular disease was about 25% lower when 50g of processed meat a day was replaced with nuts or legumes. Meanwhile, replacing one egg a day with 25g of nuts was linked to a 17% lower risk. But there was no clear evidence that replacing poultry or fish with nuts or legumes reduced cardiovascular disease.

Replacing processed meat, which was often red meat in the form of ham, bacon, sausages or hotdogs, was linked to the clearest health benefits. According to the study in BMC Medicine, switching 50g of processed meat a day for 28-50g of nuts was associated with a 21% lower risk of death from any cause in the studies assessed.

Source: The Guardian