An Australian-first scientific research review published in today’s Medical Journal of Australia has busted a number of commonly held beliefs about vegetarian diets.
The compelling research detailed in a 40-page supplement has provided overwhelming evidence supporting the nutritional benefits of a vegetarian diet. It was prepared by a team of Australian Accredited Practising Dietitians alongside local and international academics.
Dr Rosemary Stanton OAM, a highly respected nutritionist who wrote an accompanying editorial covering the papers, said the scientific evidence shows a well-planned plant-based diet can meet the nutritional needs of adults and children while reducing the risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
The review puts to rest the widespread assumption that a vegetarian diet is likely to lack protein and iron, and that it is not suitable for pregnant women or children.
“The average Aussie eats significantly more protein than is required by the body. A plant-based diet easily supplies the body’s needs and meets daily requirements,” said Dr Stanton.
Contrary to popular opinion, the review reveals that iron needs can also be easily met from a plant-based diet. Vegetarians who follow a balanced diet are not at any greater risk of iron deficiency anaemia than those on an omnivorous diet.
Dr Stanton said that there are no significant health differences in babies born to vegetarian mums, and plant-based diets can offer many advantages to pregnant women including a reduced risk of excess weight gain. When meals are planned well, there is no notable difference in the growth of vegetarian children compared to children consuming meat-based diets.
“Some nutrients may need more attention in a vegetarian diet, especially vitamin B12, zinc, calcium and essential omega-3 fats. However, nutritional needs can still be met by consuming a variety of plant-based foods. Fortified foods offer extra quantities of some nutrients,” said Dr Stanton.
“Not everyone needs to or wants to become vegetarian but eating more plant-based meals is a good recipe for our own health and that of the planet. Diets dominated by wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables are almost certainly the way of the future,” she says.