The world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals has announced its position on plant-based diets – and deemed them ‘appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy,
lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes’.
By doing so, The Academy of
Nutrition and Dietetics has sent a powerful message about the universal
suitability of vegan diets – breaking down perhaps one of the last standing
misconceptions of plant-based eating.
This is big.
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
Regardless of the motivation, there is no
question that a healthy 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 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
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 phrase being well-planned.
Plant-based advocates will also be glad to
know this was not the only positive message to come out of the
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also
stood behind two other extraordinarily important statements in support of
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
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 healthy vegan diets are, in any way,
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
with that, there is one less piece of ammunition for the plant-based detractors