Is Veganism Good Enough For Everyone to Critique?

By now you have probably seen the Nina Planck NYT article questioning the safety of veganism for kids. And you are probably, rightfully, outraged. The author, who supposedly once followed a vegan diet, is now an outspoken critique who regularly (too often, if you ask me!) is given a platform to express her so-called concern. It’s too extreme! It’s not natural! Your baby might die! As a Registered Dietitian and as a vegan of 16 years I was so frustrated I could barely finish reading it. But now that I’ve had more time to think about this, her irrational statements may not be an entirely bad thing. Before you excommunicate me from the vegan world, here’s what I think:

Veganism is insanely popular right now
The premise of Planck’s article is that veganism is extreme and a fringe idea. I hate to say this, but when I first went vegan in the 90′s this was somewhat true. But today we have talk show hosts, mixed martial arts fighters, professional athletes and a host of scientists, doctors and dietitians (see list below) that are vegan. The number of strict vegans may still a small percentage of the population, but is growing unbelievably fast. And the number of people who sometimes eat vegan meals is skyrocketing. Veganism has reached a mainstream audience: we have to expect backlash.

The response was immediate, thorough and successful
My colleague Ginny Messina, aka The Vegan RD, easily tore apart Planck’s scare tactics and pseudo-science as did the Vegetarian Resource Group. The LA Times even did a response article that quotes Messina extensively. The Sistah Vegan Project and the Intellectualyst also responded, just to name a few. I was so thoroughly impressed by the response from the vegan community that I had to change what I was originally going to write about here.

Relying on psuedo-science and out-dated studies to critique veganism is becoming harder to do
Articles like this used to appear regularly! Today they are quite rare, which is why I am shocked that the NY Times actually ran it. Vegans have decades of experience justifying their eating habits and have become rather skilled at using research to make their arguments. Every time I see Jack Norris’ veganhealth.org site linked it reminds that vegans are a smart bunch who will use real science to fight psuedo-science. With vegan Registered Dietitians like Jack Norris, Ginny Messina, Reed Mangels, Julianna Heaver, Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina covering the science behind veganism we have the tools to show not only the adequacy of vegan diets, but the benefits of eating plant-based.

Remember this: veganism is a radical idea to many and a threat to more than a few social and economical systems. But compassion and science are on our side. So next time someone brings up one of Nina Planck’s ridiculous articles or statements, take a deep breath and politely ask where the scientific studies backing her ideas are. Meanwhile you can read the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition’s Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets that says nothing about having to rely on ‘many synthetic supplements.’

Written by Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD

Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD

Matt Ruscigno is a Registered Dietitian – the only professional nutrition credential available- and has been an ethical vegan for over 16 years. His personal site is www.truelovehealth.com. Matt is the Chair of the Vegetarian Nutrition Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and contributed to the best-selling cookbook Appetite for Reduction with Isa Moskowitz.

He’s also obsessed with burritos and dead set on finding the positive in any situation. He’s an accomplished athlete who races ultra-marathons, iron-man triathlons and 200+ mile bike races. He thinks good health, fun, adventure and ethics go hand in hand. Matt has a masters degree from Loma Linda University, one of only a handful of accredited schools that promotes vegetarianism.


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