Vegan diets CAN be very healthy… it’s not debatable.
Many people try to discourage or poke holes in veganism and criticise vegans. After learning more about veganism, as a dietitian I was quick to criticise and assume that vegans would inherently suffer some kind of nutritional issues without animal sources in their diet.
But it didn’t take long to realise there is a lot of research to support the adequacy and potential benefits of a diet that is centred around plant foods.
The claim that a vegan diet cannot meet nutritional requirements is absurd and anyone saying that does not know diddly about nutrition and plant-based diets. To say so would go against the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals that represents over 100,000 credentialed practitioners.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position on vegan diets is:
“Plant-based diets, when appropriately planned, are associated with a lower risk of developing lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers”. (1)
This is likely due to the fact that plant-based diets, including vegan diets, tend to be higher in fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, as well as being lower in calories and fat, particularly saturated fat which likely explains the decreased risk of disease.
Yes, there are some nutrients that may be falling short if someone doesn’t plan their plant-based diet appropriately. But there is not a single nutrient that cannot be obtained from a plant or plant derived/synthetic supplement (synthetic does not mean unhealthy). Many non-vegan foods are also fortified with supplements so it is not a vegan issue. It is an issue due to the food system we have and certain vitamins and minerals being lost through processing or sanitation processes.
Some of the nutrients people will bring up or be concerned about include:
HOWEVER THESE CAN ALL BE OBTAINED ON A VEGAN DIET.
There is an incredible resource put together by some vegan dieticians at www.veganhealth.org where you can find recommendations on all nutrients with scientific references (warning: very science heavy).
Educating yourself on how to include all these nutrients is important, but it is not that hard! Just listen to the right people!
A great quote when it comes to dealing with criticism around nutrition.
“Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t turn to for advice.”
When it comes to nutrition, listen to registered dietitian. Dietitians are the experts in nutrition, they are better trained, regulated and educated in nutrition than medical doctors, naturopaths or other nutritionist titles.
All of our nutrition books are written by myself and other vegan health coaches. They include details on how to balance the right plant foods in your diet and how to supplement accordingly.
But seeking out some guidance to help you establish a healthy diet is also greatly advised. Because we all eat food, everyone thinks they know a lot about nutrition, however not many people have degrees in nutrition. So reach out to a professional for help with your diet, everyone drives a car, yet we still reach out to mechanics when we want things to run smoothly for a long time.
Reasonably planned vegan diets can be followed long term and you will probably be quite healthy from all those plants.
- Applying further restriction to a vegan diet will make meeting nutrient requirements more difficult i.e. Dietitians do not support extended fasting diets, vegan keto, raw food only, “alkaline” or anything else that may come into trend.
- Eat a variety of all plant foods abundantly; vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.
Just be a smart vegan. Get some professional nutrition advice (just like omnivores should) and from time to time check relevant blood levels to see if there is anything you may be falling short on.
I.e. don’t let some random on the internet, family member or friend give you dietary advice if they are not a nutrition professional.
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Post written by our resident dietician Jacob McGinness.