USDA Praises Plant-Based Diets

Eating Meat is Not Essential for Health

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture routinely announces dietary guidelines advising Americans about what to eat. Now, for the first time, the agency has broken from tradition to talk about truly good foods, rather than scientifically discuss nutrients. More, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, released this year, embraces the value of plant-based diets.

In the new edition, the guidelines’ healthy eating patterns may or may not include moderate amounts of meat. At the same time, the guidelines explain clearly that meat is not essential, and that near-vegetarian and vegetarian diets are adequate and have even resulted in better health. A pertinent excerpt follows.

“In prospective studies of adults, compared to non-vegetarian eating patterns, vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes—lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and lower total mortality. Several clinical trials have documented that vegetarian eating patterns lower blood pressure. On average, vegetarians consume a lower proportion of calories from fat (particularly saturated fatty acids); fewer overall calories; and more fiber, potassium and vitamin C than do non-vegetarians. Vegetarians generally have a lower body mass index.

“These characteristics and other lifestyle factors associated with a vegetarian diet may contribute to the positive health outcomes that have been identified among vegetarians.”


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