Vegans: we love to make fun of them, but at the same time, their radical plant-based diet might just be what saves humankind. Still, the vegan diet has proven to be a very contentious topic recently — first with the Italians, and now with the Germans.
In a new paper, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) condemns the vegan diet for being deficient on nutrition. “With a pure plant-based diet, it is difficult or impossible to attain an adequate supply of some nutrients,” the paper states. Nutrients, the DGE says, such as vitamin B12, riboflavin, vitamin D, calcium, iron, iodine, zinc and selenium, along with some amino acids and long-chain n-3 fatty acids. The paper also recommends against a vegan diet for pregnant and lactating women, as well as children and adolescents.
Still, the DGE does have advice for those still stubborn enough to give up animal products in spite of the warning:
Persons who nevertheless wish to follow a vegan diet should permanently take a vitamin B12 supplement, pay attention to an adequate intake of nutrients, especially critical nutrients, and possibly use fortified foods or dietary supplements. They should receive advice from a nutrition counsellor and their supply of critical nutrients should be regularly checked by a physician.
But is the vegan diet really so nutritionally void as to be dangerous? No — not according to Jimmy Pierson, a spokesperson for England’s Vegan Society, who spoke with NPR on the subject. “With a little planning and knowledge, rest assured, you can get everything you need from a vegan diet for great health … at any age.” Pierson himself makes sure to supplement his diet with lots of flaxseed to account for the omega-3 fatty acids he’s missing out on by not consuming fish.
As for the notion that vegans are deficient in minerals such as calcium and iron? Pierson doesn’t subscribe to it. As long as a person trying out the vegan diet plans in advance and makes sure to eat a wide array of plant-based foods (read: probably not vegan cheeseburgers), nutritional needs can be met.
In some ways, Pierson’s advice agrees with that of the DGE. Plan ahead, supplement when needed, and don’t fill your life with vegan junk food. Which is pretty much the recommendation of any good diet, isn’t it? Pardon us while we go fill up on an actual, delicious, meat-containing cheeseburger.