Position Of The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics: Vegetarian And Vegan Diets Are Healthful And Nutritionally Adequate

I have to put this out there because I just saw another article, this one on NPR, that promotes the consumption of animal food – meat, dairy and eggs – to get enough protein. Vegans, it says, may need protein supplements! (The first is from a dietitian, the second from the article’s author.)

Vegans can benefit from protein supplements since they do not eat animal-based protein sources like meat, dairy or eggs.

Bottom line, if you think you need more protein in your diet, consider these questions: Are you are an extreme athlete; are you recovering from injury or surgery; or are you 60 years or older? If so, adding high protein foods like eggs and meat products to your diet can be beneficial.

These statements are not true. Vegans get enough protein without taking a protein supplement. People over 60 and athletes do not need to add animal foods to their diets to be healthy. Vegan diets are not inadequate. Not only are they adequate, they benefit the environment and reduce risk for many chronic diseases. It’s not me saying all this; it’s the group of people who certify dietitians:

Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2016

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.

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.

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. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease.

About protein:

Vegetarian, including vegan, diets typically meet or exceed recommended protein intakes, when caloric intakes are adequate.

Protein needs at all ages, including those for athletes, are well achieved by balanced vegetarian diets.

The misconception that plant-based diets lack adequate protein continues, even among educated, credentialed healthcare workers. It’s exasperating.

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