Thoughts on Vegetarian Nutrition - is it adequate and complete?

by Webmaster,

Some people say that sole vegetarian nutrition is insufficient, and that a vegetarian diet would result in nutritional deficiencies, and point to people they know, or stories they have heard, whereby vegetarians developed such deficiencies. In my opinion, this is not a fair argument.

To make my point, let me ask a very simple question - are there people who consume omnivorous diets who develop nutritional deficiencies? But, of course! So, along the same vein, doesn't that immediately mean that diets which contain meat are therefore 'wrong' diets?

However, somehow, people don't draw that link. Why does the axe only fall on vegetarian diets and vegetarian nutrition? This is because we usually see what we want to see, and conclude what we want to conclude.

The fact that some vegetarians develop nutritional deficiencies, develop diseases or even die young proves nothing. Anyone on any kind of diet can develop deficiencies if he or she fails to consume a well-balanced diet within the principles of the particular diet he or she is adopting. These occurrences do not in any way damage the credibility and validity of sole vegetarian nutrition.

And, anyone can contract diseases or die young. It's really a numbers game - we are talking about a better statistical probability of better health by being on a vegetarian diet.

Most people already set out with a preconceived notion about vegetarian nutrition and vegetarian diets, that they lack certain elements and are therefore nutritionally deficient. Others set out to attack the vegetarian way of life in order to protect the validity of their own meat-eating habits.

Some people like meat and want to continue eating it, but use nutritional reasons as an excuse not to give it up.

The truth is, well-planned vegetarian diets have been found to be nutritionally sufficient for all stages of life, including infancy, childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, lactation and old age. This includes many of the nutrients which vegetarian diets have been falsely claimed to be lacking in, like vitamin B12, essential fatty acids, calcium and protein.

Vegetarian nutrition can more than stand on its own two feet.

In fact, vegetarian diets provide many health benefits and are very useful in preventing and even treating many diseases. This includes lower risks for deadly diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke. Vegetarian nutrition is good stuff!

Believe it or not, according to Dr William Harris, an MD and the director of the Kaiser Permanente Vegetarian Lifestyle Clinic in Hawaii, a simple vegetarian diet containing only of whole grains, fruits, starches and vegetables can actually meet one's recommended amounts of essential nutrients, save for vitamin B12.

In my view, there is nothing horribly wrong with liking meat and wanting to eat it. Of course, animal rights activists would feel otherwise, but that is another story altogether.

Think about it - between only eating plant-based foods, and only eating animal-based foods, which would you choose? On the former diet, you would be perfectly fine; you would even be extremely healthy, if you eat a well-balanced diet containing a variety of foods. On the latter diet, however, not only would you be lacking many essential vitamins and other nutrients, I think you would also be terribly constipated due to the severe lack of fiber.

The truth is, most of us are eating way too much animal food products. In the process, we are ingesting all the cholesterol and saturated fats, as well as overdoses of animal protein. Read the page discussing the presence of protein in vegetarian diets.

This tells us something - that, regardless of whether or not you believe in the sufficiency of sole vegetarian nutrition, excessive animal-based food is killing us. Even if you don't want to give up meat and other animal food products, please do at least consider cutting down.

Really, we should not be worried about relying only on vegetarian nutrition; on the contrary, most of us lack it!

Eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat is something which is recommended even by mainstream organizations like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.

If you wish to reap some of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet and vegetarian nutrition without turning fully vegetarian, then make plant-based foods the main part of your meals, and greatly reduce the amount of animal-based foods which you consume. If you can, try to go vegetarian for at least some of your meals.

See also the page discussing a typical vegetarian food pyramid.

For a very clear stand on the sufficiency of vegetarian nutrition, see below for the abstract of the "Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian diets", June 2003, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Approximately 2.5% of adults in the United States and 4% of adults in Canada follow vegetarian diets. A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat, fish or fowl. Interest in vegetarianism appears to be increasing, with many restaurants and college foodservices offering vegetarian meals routinely. Substantial growth in sales of foods attractive to vegetarians has occurred, and these foods appear in many supermarkets. This position paper reviews the current scientific data related to key nutrients for vegetarians, including protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin A, n-3 fatty acids and iodine. A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients. In some cases, use of fortified foods or supplements can be helpful in meeting recommendations for individual nutrients. Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence. Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer. Although a number of federally funded and institutional feeding programs can accommodate vegetarians, few have foods suitable for vegans at this time. Because of the variability of dietary practices among vegetarians, individual assessment of dietary intakes of vegetarians is required. Dietetics professionals have a responsibility to support and encourage those who express an interest in consuming a vegetarian diet. They can play key roles in educating vegetarian clients about food sources of specific nutrients, food purchase and preparation, and any dietary modifications that may be necessary to meet individual needs. Menu planning for vegetarians can be simplified by use of a food guide that specifies food groups and serving sizes.

I hope the above short abstract banishes any fallacies about the insufficiency or inferiority of vegetarian nutrition. In fact, it is crystal clear to me that vegetarian nutrition is not only sufficient, but in fact superior to more conventional diets which contain meat.

For more information on vegetarian nutrition, read about whether or not vegetarian diets result in nutritional deficiencies, as well as the health benefits of embracing a vegetarian diet.

Make sure you learn well about vegetarian nutrition. Done correctly, vegetarian nutrition is sufficient to give your health a boost.

Read More: More on Vegetarianism | Understanding Nutrition and its Importance | Nutrition Health Articles - Foods, Diets, Supplements, Nutrients and more | Information on some Herbs | Favorite Herbs, Herbals Formulas and Foods | Natural Health Supplements - What to Consider | Home Page | Site Search

Being a vegetarian does not have to be difficult. In fact, it should be simple, healthful and fun. Meals can be delicious, too. Click here for a step-by-step guide to a vegetarian lifestyle, which will help you to make a simple transition to a healthier diet.

Also, if you wish to learn how to lose weight quickly and healthily with simple, cheap and easy vegetarian meal plans, click here.

And if you love Chinese food or wish to learn healthy, delicious, natural, gluten-free Chinese vegetarian recipes which you can easily prepare at home, click here.

Vegetarian-related Pages

Introduction | What is a Vegetarian? | What Do Vegetarians Eat? | Different Types of Vegetarians | Pros & Cons | Why People Become Vegetarians - the reasons | Advantages of Vegetarian Diet Choices | Health Benefits of Vegetarian Diet Consumption | Vegetarian Diet Disadvantage - a discussion | Becoming a Vegetarian - does it suit humans better? | Being Vegetarian | Going Vegetarian Really isn't That Difficult | Challenges of Being a Vegetarian | How to Become a Vegetarian | Tips to Become Vegetarian | Nutrition Issues | Thoughts on Vegetarian Nutrition - is it adequate and complete? | Vegetarian Diet Health Concerns - are there nutritional deficiencies? | Vegetarian Protein - is there enough, and is it complete? | High Protein Vegetarian Diet - some thoughts | Planning a Diet | What's a Healthy Vegetarian Diet? | Achieving a Balanced Vegetarian Diet | Formulating a Vegetarian Diet Plan | Vegetarian Food Pyramid - details & discussion | Vegetarian Daily Diet - some ideas | A Right Diet for Vegetarians - are you on one? | More Information | Vegetarian Statistics and Studies | Vegetarian Quotes - for fun, information & inspiration | Vegetarian Websites, Books, Videos & Resources | List of some Famous Vegetarians

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