Vegetarian and vegan diets good for kids and adults, nutritionists say

December 5, 2016 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Vegetarian and vegan diets good for kids and adults, nutritionists say

Plant-based diets are tied to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers and, according to a large group of dietitians, pretty much anyone can eat this way.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are appropriate for all stages of life, including during infancy, pregnancy, childhood, adolescence and old age, states a new position from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

People who adopt a plant-based diet tend to consume more fruits and vegetables, fewer sweets and salty snacks, and smaller amounts of total and saturated fats.

The trick is to make sure these diets are well planned and well balanced.

For younger vegetarians and vegans, in particular, it's important to plan meals that include enough iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, and for some, calcium and vitamin D.

Health benefits of vegetarian diets

Among the health benefits noted in the guidelines, people who eat a plant-based diet are less likely to be overweight or obese than adults who consume meat.

Vegan diets especially, which exclude all animal products including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, are associated with a lower risk of heart disease than other ways of eating.

According to the paper’s authors, people who adopt a vegan diet reduce the risk of diabetes by 62 percent, the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent, the chance of being hospitalized for a heart attack by 33 percent, the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and the risk of all forms of cancer by 18 percent.

People who adopt vegetarian diets have a lower body mass index, better control of blood pressure and blood glucose, less inflammation and lower cholesterol levels compared with non-vegetarians.

Just because a diet is vegetarian or vegan, however, doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy.

A healthy diet, vegetarian or not, is rich in minimally processed foods.

Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, online December 2016.

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