In December of last year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) put out a position statement on plant-based (vegetarian and vegan) diets. Their conclusion is very clear; these diets are effective and valuable and when done appropriately, can benefit health by preventing and treating chronic conditions:
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
To be clear, this is a very important finding. The people who study nutrition the most, who analyze foods for whether they are adequate for growth and to maintain health, have come out unreservedly stating that neither meat nor dairy products are necessary for health and even more so, that removing them from the diet can incur additional health benefits.
When I see a child with severe acne and I inquire about her diet, she tells me that she eats half a block of cheese a day (this was just yesterday).
When I see a patient with severe high blood pressure (on four different pills to control it), who just noticed the onset of chest pain, and I inquire about his diet, he tells me that he eats two cheeseburgers a day (this was just yesterday again).
When you injure your body with foods that cause disease, it’s hard to get rid of the disease. We understand this with smoking. There is no longer any group that recommends smoking in moderation. What we need to do is use the understanding we have of nicotine (it’s bad for you) and apply it to our food.
When there is a food that has been identified as bad for you, like palm oil was this week (it causes cancer), we need to give up that food. Not reduce, not try to minimize. We need to abandon it.
So far as I know, apples, whole grains, beans, peas, rice, corn and pineapples can be eaten regularly without increasing the risk of our major killers: metabolic diseases and cancer. Those are where we should be focusing our diets, since those are the foods that promote health and reverse diseases.