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Ask Tufts Experts June 2011 Issue

Q: My family is vegan, and we sometimes use “faux” meat products. Lately I’ve been reading that the salt and nitrites in processed meats are more dangerous than red meats. Have we unwittingly been exchanging one unhealthy diet component for another?

Answer :  Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, responds, “It depends on what has been added to the faux meats as flavoring and coloring, and in what quantities they are eaten.” Check the label: It is possible, for example, to buy vegan “bacon” that contains only two-thirds the sodium of real bacon, no saturated fat and no added nitrites. Don’t assume, however, Lichtenstein cautions, that a vegan diet is necessarily healthier than one including animal products (notwithstanding any ethical concerns). “Non- and low-fat dairy products and eggs are good sources of protein and other nutrients, as is fish.”

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