The Dangerous Side Of Vegan Diets

Posted on
 but a lack of nutrition knowledge can have serious consequences The Dangerous Side of Vegan Diets

A well-planned vegan diet can be healthy, but a lack of nutrition knowledge can have serious consequences.

By Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN

On July 2 in Milan, Italy, a 14-month old baby was rushed to the hospital by his grandparents. Severely malnourished from being kept on a strict vegan diet by his parents, the baby was extremely underweight and suffering from various nutrient deficiencies, including a critical calcium deficiency, which doctors say exacerbated an underlying congenital heart condition. Now recovering from emergency heart surgery, the baby has been taken away from the parents. A children’s court will decide whether the grandparents will be given full custody.

This is the fourth reported case like this in Italy within the past 18 months, where vegan diets have become increasingly popular. So it begs the question: Can vegan diets be safe for children?

“Because they’re still growing and developing, it’s vitally important that kids get adequate nutrients,” says Laura Gibofsky, M.S., R.D., a board-certified pediatric dietitian in New York City. “A well-planned vegan diet can meet the nutrient needs of infants, children, and adolescents,” she explains, but with an emphasis on “well-planned.” That said, “any parent considering putting their child on a vegan diet should do it under the guidance of a registered dietitian to ensure that their child is getting sufficient nutrients for optimal growth and development,” she adds.

Some of the nutrients Gibofsky says parents should be particularly aware of in a child following a vegan diet: “Protein, omega-3s (essential fatty acids), iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.” She recommends vitamin B12 supplements in particular because it’s such a common deficiency on vegan diets, and adds that calcium and vitamin D supplements may be needed as well. Parents and care providers may also opt to supplement for other nutrients they feel a child may be at risk of missing out on. Though they’re not a replacement for food, she says dietary supplements can help address gaps in the diet and pediatric supplements that contain no animal products are available.

Though adults may not have to worry about all the same nutritional issues as kids, nutrient deficiencies are still something to watch out for when it comes to plant-based eating. A healthy vegan diet requires planning and extra attention to certain nutrients to make sure you’re covering your nutritional bases. Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

Protein: Plant-based protein can be found in nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils, and even in some vegetables (though in small amounts).

Calcium: Tofu, dark leafy greens, and white beans are just a few of the many plant sources of calcium. You can also reach for fortified dairy substitutes or use a supplement. Aim for about 1,000mg per day total. (Hint: Dairy-Free Sources of Calcium.)

Iron: No red meat? No problem! Iron can be found in foods like beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dark, leafy greens. Eat these with foods that are rich in vitamin C to enhance absorption. (Check out Iron Rich Foods That Aren’t Red Meat.)

Vitamin B12: Seaweed is one of the few naturally occurring plant sources of vitamin B12. Nondairy milks, meat substitutes, and grain products are often fortified with B12. If you don’t want to hop on the faux meat bandwagon, though, a daily supplement might be your best bet.

Vitamin D: Mushrooms are one of the few plant foods that contain vitamin D, but not in large amounts. A daily supplement or supplemented food or beverages like grain products or nondairy milk will likely be your best bet with this one. (Here: Healthy Foods With Vitamin D.)

Also—and this is important for any diet—be sure to listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. So touch base with your doctor and make an appointment with a dietitian to help you make sure you’re getting what you need.

Best Restaurants in America If you eat out in the U.S.A. and want the best dining experiences possible, this guide is for you What makes a good restaurant a “best”? Food that’s better than just good, of course. A dining room and a level of service that suit the quality of what’s on the plate. A good wine list (which doesn’t always mean an encyclopedic one), good beers and/or cocktails where appropriate. And then the less easily quantifiable stuff: personality, imagination (or intelligent commitment to a lack of same), consistency. 101 Best Restaurants in America (Gallery) When we were a young website, way back in 2011, we drew up our first 101 ranking ourselves, making a list of the places where we, The Daily Meal’s editors, liked to eat. Taking into consideration our mood, our budget, and where we happened to be when we get hungry, how would we vote, we asked ourselves — not only with our critical faculties but with our mouths and our wallets? Where would we send friends? Where would we want to dine if we had one night in this city or that? By this method, we ended up with a shortlist of 150 places. Then we argued, advocated, and cajoled each other on behalf of restaurants ranging from old-fashioned to avant-garde, ultra-casual to super-fancy. Finally, we invited an illustrious panel of judges (restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and bloggers) from across America to help order restaurants via an anonymous survey and tallied results to assemble a ranked list. Upstairs, the simple Scandinavian-style dining room is kitted out with tables that look like tangled tree trunks, carved by Tom senior. The ingredient-led 12-course tasting menu is constantly changing (you might spot one of the chefs picking a final herb flourish outside minutes before it hits your plate). Starters could include a mouthful of smoked eel and apple, or an exploding dumpling of ox cheek and lovage. A crapaudine beetroot slow-cooked in beef fat is meaty in texture as well as flavour, and local lamb is paired with turnip and mint. Even the bread with sour butter is sensational. Afterwards you’ll be grateful for the walk through the village to a pretty rose-covered house where some of the nine bedrooms have antique oak four-posters and copper bateau baths. Wake to the sound of cows mooing in the next field and head back to the inn for a simple breakfast of sheep’s yogurt with fresh berry compote and house granola or toasted brioche heaped with mushrooms and a duck egg. Unsurprisingly, the most talked about restaurant in Yorkshire is often full, so book it quick. By Tabitha Joyce.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *