IS A VEGETARIAN DIET ADEQUATE? Concepts and Controversies in Plant-based Nutrition
An Australian first scientific literature review of vegetarian diets was recently conducted by a group of Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) and university academics with expertise in the area of plant-based nutrition.
As a result, a 40-page peer-reviewed Supplement to the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) was published in June 2012 (MJA OPEN) with individual papers addressing key nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, omega-3 and vitamin B12 in vegetarian diets.
The supplement presents a highly balanced view of common myths, questions and misconceptions surrounding the adequacy of plant-based eating patterns. It also includes a research paper on how vegetarian diets meet the nutrient reference values. Sanitarium is one of the sponsors of this MJA publication, and two dietitians who work in Corporate Nutrition for Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing were involved in the literature review and writing.
Meeting the Nutrient Reference Values on a Vegetarian Diet
Nutrient Reference Values (NRV) are recommended target levels for all nutrients, in the form of Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) or Adequate Intakes (AIs). The following is an overview of the NRV paper, including links to sample meals plans that were developed for a range of age groups.
Australians are now consuming more plant-based meals in the belief that eating less meat and more plant foods improves overall health. Many studies demonstrate the significant health benefits of well-planned vegetarian diets. Vegetarian diets are generally lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than non-vegetarian diets and higher in dietary fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals, and it is likely that the combination of these factors provide vegetarians with a significant health advantage.
As with any type of eating plan, vegetarian meals must be well-planned to ensure nutritional needs are being met. Meeting the Nutrient Reference Values on a Vegetarian Diet looks at the adequacy of vegetarian diets and shows how well-planned vegetarian diets can meet key nutritional needs of children and adults of all ages. Sample single-day lacto-ovo vegetarian meal plans were developed to meet the NRVs including increased requirements for iron and zinc at 180% RDI and 150% RDI respectively for vegetarians across all NRV age and gender groups. For a discussion of the results please refer to the full paper at the MJA OPEN website. These meal plans are available to use as tools in clinical practice.
To access the full MJA papers regarding important nutrients in a vegetarian diet, and the educational resource Practical Tips for Preparing Healthy and Delicious Plant-based Meals, visit the MJA OPEN website.
Supporting documents referred to in the MJA Open Supplement:
Meal Plans and Analyses
Meal Plan Summary Tables