Both vegetarian and vegan diets are safe and can meet nutrient requirements with the supplementation of vitamin B12.[i] According to the Vegetarian Position statement of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) “Well-designed vegetarian diets, that may include fortified foods or supplements, meet current nutrient recommendations and are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”[ii]
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics [formerly the American Dietetic Association] that vegetarian diets can provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain health conditions, including atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Well-designed vegetarian diets, that may include fortified foods or supplements, meet current nutrient recommendations and are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Vegetarians must use special care to ensure adequate intake of vitamin B-12.
A recent European study confirmed the superiority of plant-based or vegan diets. This study used several different indexing systems to rate the healthfulness of a wide spectrum of diets, from vegan to vegetarian, semivegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous and concluded that, “the use of indexing systems, estimating the overall diet quality based on different aspects of healthful dietary models indicated consistently the vegan diet as the most healthy one.” The study goes on to say that, “the vegan diet received the highest index values and the omnivorous the lowest. Typical aspects of a vegan diet (high fruit and vegetable intake, low sodium intake, and low intake of saturated fat) contributed substantially to the total score, independent of the indexing system used.”[i]