Do Our Bodies Need Animal Products?

As our awareness continues to grow about the connection between diet and health, it has become evident that eating a plant foods diet can provide a myriad of benefits for the human body.

Reviewed by a dietician: Adriana Chychula, MS, RD, LDN

For those who might be concerned about meeting all their nutritional requirements with just plant foods, rest assured that even the mainstream and conservative Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association, self-described as “the world’s largest organization of nutrition and dietetics practitioners”) confirms that you do not need to eat animal products to maintain your health.

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that 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.

  • Vegetarian diets are often associated with health advantages including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels and lower risk of hypertension and type-2 diabetes, according to ADA’s position.
  • Vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates.
  • Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and have higher levels of dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals.

These nutritional differences may explain some of the health advantages of those following a varied, balanced vegetarian diet.”

A growing number of notable healthcare professionals now enthusiastically promote the health benefits of a vegan diet, along with many high profile athletes who have switched to a plant-powered diet to improve their health and performance.

Variety and plenty of whole, fresh plant foods are the keys to getting everything you need in terms of flavor and nutritional content.

If you’re understandably concerned about guaranteeing that all your nutritional needs are met, there are plenty of resources available online and in books written by vegan or vegan-friendly registered dietitians, and we recommend that you familiarize yourself with how to optimize nutrition as a vegan. Vegans do get certain nutrients from different sources than non-vegans, so it’s a good idea to be aware of those differences, to avoid deficiencies caused by not being properly informed.

Many people who become vegan report that their health greatly improves as a result. Perhaps, the lighter, healthier body that emerges with veganism is a reflection of a lighter, healthier conscience that comes with taking a stand against injustice and making a commitment to non-violence.

Finally, unlike the Atkins, Paleo, or South Beach diets, which are trendy fads, veganism is neither a fad nor a diet, but a stand against injustice and commitment to non-violence that impacts one’s eating choices because of ethical considerations. Nevertheless, the growing number of strong, active vegans are a testament to the fact that one doesn’t have to sacrifice one’s physical health to embrace a more gentle way of life.



© Gentle World 2023. Gentle World is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) educational organization, helping to build a more peaceful society by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making the transition. EIN: 59-1999433