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Vegetarian Diets Best for Health and the Environment, Say Nutritionists

A new position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), reported by Medical News Today, touts the benefits of vegetarian diets for the reduction of obesity, heart disease and cancer. AND’s position is an updated version from 2009, and promotes a “well-planned” plant-based diet beginning in childhood.

I believe that a balanced, healthful diet includes whole, fresh, organic vegetables, and it makes perfect sense that individuals who consume more vegetables are likely to be healthier. However, if you rely totally on a vegetarian diet, you also may suffer from subclinical protein malnutrition, putting yourself at risk for a number of nutrient deficiencies, as some nutrients simply cannot be obtained from plant foods.

For example, you cannot get vitamin B12, creatine, carnosine, taurine, vitamin D3, heme-iron, the omega-3 fat DHA or sulfur from a totally plant-based diet. A large number of individuals will disagree with this, but it’s my belief after 30 years of practicing nutritional medicine that your body needs animal-based foods.

On the other hand, you don’t need large amounts of meat. So what we’re talking about is balance. Aim for a diet high in healthy fats and low in net carbs, with moderate amounts of high quality protein, ideally no more than about 1 gram per kilo (2.2 pounds) of lean body mass.

If you don't want to eat meat that comes from four-legged animals, try mercury-free fish or seafood, free-range eggs, raw dairy products, and omega-3 fats from krill. Legumes, nuts, seeds and vegetables like broccoli also are good protein sources.
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