The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Going Veggie

Going Veggie

In the News

July 26, 2009

Vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases, according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

The recent analysis specifically points to the adequacy of vegetarian diets in pregnancy, resulting in positive maternal and infant health outcomes, as well as an association between vegetarian diets and a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates.

If appropriately planned, the ADA concludes that vegetarian diets are suitable "for individuals during all stages of the life-cycle including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

The ADA goes on to state that “vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, have higher levels of dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals.” All of these important factors contribute to the overall health advantages of a vegetarian diet.

The varied and balanced factor should not be overlooked, says the ADA, because unbalanced diets can lead to health issues. For example, diets low in calcium and protein are associated with bone loss and hip fractures. To promote bone health, vegetarians are advised to consume fruits and vegetables, soy products, foods that provide adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K, and adequate amounts of protein.

The ADA’s recent update on their position regarding vegetarian diets comes at a time when many consumers are keeping a close eye on their wallets and becoming more aware of the environmental costs of factory farming. A vegetarian diet could be a viable option for those seeking a healthy lifestyle that will protect the planet without breaking the bank.

Approximately 2.3% of the U.S. population (4.9 million people) followed a vegetarian diet in 2006; about 1.4% of the U.S. population was vegan. Twenty-two percent of Americans report consuming meat substitutes on a regular basis. The market for processed vegetarian foods was an estimated $1.17 billion in 2006 and is expected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2011.

If your consumers are considering switching to a vegetarian diet, the ADA advises that they consult with a registered dietician, who can help them plan, provide information and also help modify their diets to meet personal health needs. Visit the American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org orhttp://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4777 for more information on vegetarian diets.