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New, Improved Vegetarian and Vegan Food Pyramid

By Jessica Ramos

We know that vegetarian and vegan aren’t synonymous with healthy. Junk food vegans and vegetarians do exist. After all, you can technically get a vegetarian burger at Burger King.

Many new vegans flock to PETA’s Accidentally Vegan Food List (which may or may not be entirely vegan—it depends on your personal definition of vegan) and rejoice! Per PETA’s list, Mambas, Oreos and Jujubes are vegan fair game.

Like many people, just because you are a vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean that you are eating enough fruits and veggies. Delectable (and usually processed) plant-based temptations abound. Good thing vegetarians and vegans have updated food pyramid guidelines to help.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Speaking of Guidelines

Yeah, vegetarians and vegans have and need dietary guidelines, too. Oldways, a “non-profit organization that promotes healthy eating based upon regional diet pyramids,” proposed the first Vegetarian and Vegan Pyramid back in 1997. Now, they’ve updated the Pyramid and lumped vegetarians and vegans together because of the similarities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate program isn’t full enough for followers of a vegetarian and vegan diet. As reported in U.S. News, Sara Baer-Sinnott, Oldways’ president, explained: “‘Vegetarian eating is at an all-time high, and it’s essential for people to realize that vegetarian diets are more than just cutting out meat. Balancing and planning are important.’”

Dietary Concerns for Vegetarians and Vegans

Fortunately, there’s no protein concern, which is one of the most common concerns from non-vegs that vegetarians and vegans encounter. Iron and iron-deficiency (also a high omnivore deficiency), calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12 and zinc round up the highest nutrients of concern for the two veggie groups.

New and Improved Guidelines

– Fruits: 3-4 daily servings (canned and frozen fruit count!)

– Vegetables: 4-5 daily servings

– Whole Grains: 5-6 daily servings

– Beans, Peas, Lentils, Soy: 3-6 daily servings

Nuts, Peanuts, Seeds, Peanut- or Nut Butters: 1-3 daily servings

– Herbs and Spices: Help yourself

– Plant Oils: Up to 5 daily servings

Eggs and/or Dairy: Eggs: 4-6 weekly; Dairy: 1-3 daily servings

Going Veg Still Has Its Health Perks

Besides helping animals and the planet, vegetarianism still has health benefits. On Feb. 24, U.S. News reported how a vegetarian diet may help lower blood pressure. The Japanese research study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at 22,000 participants and “found vegetarians had blood pressure that was significantly lower than those who ate meat.” Over “a review of 39 studies,” researchers found that by following plant-based diet guidelines, it “could reduce a person’s risk of heart attack by 9 percent and the risk [of] stroke by 14 percent if sustained over time.”

And it doesn’t matter what type of vegetarian you are. For instance, there weren’t significant differences between vegans, vegetarians who included dairy or pescatarians (vegetarians who still eat fish). One cardiologist from the study stepped up and said that the results are “preliminary,” and they are not ready to tell their patients to ditch meat.

Omnivores—Dont Clear Your Plate Just Yet

Just because the USDA’s MyPlate isn’t fulfilling enough for vegetarians and vegans, omnivores shouldn’t automatically be satisfied with it either. As One Green Planet highlights, MyPlate isn’t a plate that you should dash to clean up. For instance, MyPlate still lists a glass of 100 percent juice in the fruit category. Yet, as Dr. Andrew Weil points out, lumping fruit and fruit juice together “ignores the fact that the glycemic load—an indication of how quickly a food is converted to blood sugar—is far higher in fruit juices than in fruits.” That’s one glaring MyPlate mishap, but there are likely more.

Bon appétit!

Visit EcoWatch’s TIPS and HEALTH pages for more related news on this topic.

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