Are plant-based diets healthy?

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When I went vegan in 2000, health wasn’t one of the reasons why I made the decision to stop eating animals, but it’s become more of a motivating factor over the years. Since being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2008, my diet has changed dramatically from a “junk food vegan” to a more whole-food approach. It includes more and more of the foods that research has been showing to offer positive health benefits to humans. Foods like soy, whole grains, legumes, dark leafy greens and a variety of fruits and vegetables are the staples in my diet. Add in a few key nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D and DHA (partly because of Crohn’s and partly because I don’t eat many fortified foods) and you’ve got a diet that science has been found to offer disease prevention, longevity and long-term health benefits.

Vegan diets, for one reason or another, are always assumed to be lacking in protein, calcium or iron, but I think it’s important to understand that any diet that isn’t appropriately planned will be doomed to fail, which is why I think it’s awesome that there are so many resources out there to help anyone get started on a well-planned, healthy, plant-based diet regardless of age, gender or circumstances. There are nutritionally balanced meal plans that are easy to follow and delicious; I list several of resources which offer these plans on my Vegan Resources page.

As more of the scientific literature validates the benefits of plant-based diets, high-profile charities, hospitals, universities, government policy groups and even health insurance companies are showing their support or even recommending plant-based diets. This is exciting to see, and even more so because it’s happening in a world dominated by industry lobbyist groups pushing for animal products to be in every facet of our lives.

Below you’ll find a (short list) of organizations and health agencies that support plant-based diets.
Feel free to share this with anyone who has doubts over the nutritional adequacy of a plant-based (vegan) diet.

The Cleveland Clinic (one of the top GI and IBD hospitals in the USA) says:
“There really are no disadvantages to a herbivorous diet! A plant-based diet has many health benefits, including lowering the risk for heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, plus maintain weight and bone health….” and “…If a vegetarian diet is well-planned and balanced, it can be just as nutritious, if not more beneficial to health, than a traditional diet.” SOURCE

The USDA states that:
“Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients.” SOURCE

The University of Pennsylvania Health System writes that:
“A well-planned vegetarian diet can give you good nutrition. A vegetarian diet often helps you have better health. ” SOURCE (Resource moved after site change; cached page)

The Mayo Clinic (another top GI and IBD hospital) says:
“A well-planned vegetarian diet can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. ” SOURCE

Kaiser Permanente (a huge health insurance provider in the US) says:
“Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients” SOURCE

The American Diabetes Association says:
“A vegetarian diet is a healthy option, even if you have diabetes. Research supports that following this type of diet can help prevent and manage diabetes. ” SOURCE

The Dietitians of Canada state that:
“A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.” SOURCE

The British Dietetic Association says this:
“Well planned vegetarian diets can be both nutritious and healthy. They have been associated with lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer and lower blood cholesterol levels.” SOURCE

The Dietitians Association of Australia says that:
“…with good planning it is still possible to obtain all the nutrients required for good health on a vegan diet.”  SOURCE

The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation says:
“Vegetarian diets can provide all the nutrients you need at any age, as well as some additional health benefits.” SOURCE

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) states:
“…it is clear that meat is not essential in the diet, as witness the large number of vegetarians who have a nutritionally adequate diet…” SOURCE

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerally the American Dietetics Association) states:
“… appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.” SOURCE (updated Dec 2016)

The National Institutes of Health (via MedlinePlus) states:
“People who follow vegetarian diets can get all the nutrients they need.” SOURCE

The American Heart Association states:
“Vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound if they’re carefully planned to include essential nutrients.” SOURCE

The National Health Service (NHS) states: “With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.” SOURCE

QUESTION: Know of any other groups that I should add to the list?

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