Vegetarian diets can be nutritious, healthful and environmentally sustainable. According to a revised position from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegetarian and vegan diets, appropriately planned with the guidance of a registered dietitian nutritionist, can be nutritious and healthful for people at all stages of life.
As we are now in the Ber months, the season of lavish parties and gatherings, with a ton of food on the table, it would be wise to take a more mindful step, starting this season, by learning more and espousing plant-based diets.
These diets may also decrease risk of chronic diseases and are more environmentally sustainable than eating plans rich in animal products, according to the Academy’s position paper, “Vegetarian Diet.” 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 in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, 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.
Registered Dietitian, Sheela Kunishige, MBA, RD, LD, says, “Adopting a vegetarian diet can benefit one’s personal health and the environment. Well-planned vegetarian diets that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds can be nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of some chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, some types of cancer and obesity.”
People who adopt vegetarian diets have lower body mass indexes (BMIs), better blood glucose and blood pressure control, lower cholesterol, and less inflammation compared with meat eaters,” Kunishige says. “Registered Dietitian Nutritionists can help people who want to follow a vegetarian diet in any life stage to make educated decisions to achieve these benefits.”
The position paper updates and reinforces the Academy’s 2009 position on vegetarian diets to include evidence that plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because their production is associated with greater air and water pollution and greenhouse emissions than plant food production.
A large variety of food choices is available to support vegetarian and vegan meal plans, including whole foods, fortified foods and supplements that contribute nutrients such as calcium, Vit D and Vit B12.