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“These [vegan] diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”
This is a big deal.
For those that may not know, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals and they’ve just sent a powerful message on the universal suitability of vegan diets, breaking down perhaps one of the last standing misconceptions of plant-based eating.
With a growing number of vegans popping up in America and across the world, plant-based eating patterns are garnering more and more attention. People may choose to go vegan because of their feelings about animals or the environment or they may be doing it for their own health and well-being.
Regardless of the motivation, there is no question that a strong vegan diet is suitable for all life stages.
Before we get too excited, however, we must appreciate that not all plant-based diets are, by default, perfectly adequate. We must recognize that a plant-based diet, like any other type of eating pattern, can be carried out to different levels of effectiveness.
In the case of plant-based diets, it is well recognized that appropriate dietary plans must be put in place to ensure adequacy in omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
I believe that nutrition educators and plant-based advocates alike now have a strong responsibility to help educate the masses on how to carry out a vegan dietary pattern in the healthiest possible way.
If you want to learn more about some of the key foods you can eat to ensure adequacy in these nutrients, please take a look at my article on the top 5 foods for plant-based beginners.
I would also like to take this opportunity to refute a very important piece of misinformation that I have encountered in some plant based circles.
Foods such as nori, spirulina and algae are not acceptable sources of vitamin B12 for plant-based eaters. Vitamin B12 is potentially the most problematic nutrient for the average vegan, and should be addressed using fortified foods and perhaps supplementation.
Remember, the take home message from the Academy’s statement is that a well-planned vegan diet can satisfy the nutrition needs of any person.
The operative word being well-planned.
More Good News
Plant-based advocates will also be glad to know that this was not the only strong positive message that came out of the position paper.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also stood behind two other extraordinarily important statements in support of plant-based eating:
1. “Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage.”
2. “Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.”
It means a great deal for the plant-based movement for such a large and reputable organization of nutrition professionals to come out and explicitly stand behind what many of us have known for quite some time.
The release of this position statement is a victory for all advocates of plant-based eating styles because it finally puts to rest the notion that those who consume a strong vegan diets are, in anyway, compromising their health or nutritional adequacy at any life stage from toddler to older adult.
That is simply not true, and the largest most renowned group of nutrition professionals in the world has put it in writing.
And with that, there is one less piece of ammunition for the plant-based detractors out there.
Andy De Santis RD MPH
Andy is a private practice dietitian and avid nutrition blogger from Toronto, Canada. He holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Toronto and loves spreading the good word on healthy eating through his writing.
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