Below is PBFA’s public comments by our nutrition advisor Sherene Chou at the second meeting of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in Washington, DC, July 11, 2019.
Hello, my name is Sherene Chou and I am a Registered Dietitian specializing in plantbased diets. I am here today representing the Plant Based Foods Association.
The Plant Based Foods Association was founded in 2016 to promote the plant-based foods industry. We currently have over 140 members, from small start-ups to large, established companies. Our members offer consumers a variety of plant-based options.
Plant-based foods have a unique role in healthy diets and dietary patterns, which optimize and increase health at all life stages. The Guidelines should support and facilitate Americans’ ability to make healthier food choices through public policies that reflect scientific evidence and the evolving food environment.
Decades of research have shown that shifting to a plant-based diet provides an array of health benefits in chronic disease prevention and promotes healthy growth at all stages of life, including pregnancy and lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.
People consuming a plant-based diet are at a reduced risk of health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity, all conditions that the Committee is examining.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines concluded that the three main patterns to support healthy eating (Healthy – Vegetarian, Mediterranean, and U.S.) were all nutrient-dense and plant-centric.
These patterns emphasize higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds; lower in animal-based foods, and low in sugars-weetened foods and beverages. These plant-centric patterns emerged to help Americans increase intake of nutrients that are under-consumed, including vitamins A, E, and C, folate, magnesium, potassium and fiber. A diet rich in plant foods tend to be higher in all these nutrients and has health protective phytochemicals and fiber, which are exclusively found in plants.
Also, calcium and vitamin D were noted as nutrients of public concern with recommendations to increase dairy. However, 30-50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. Fortified plant-based milks are accessible and nutritious that can provide the same amounts or sometimes more calcium and vitamin D as dairy.
Plant-based milks support those avoiding dairy due to health, culture, and lifestyle choices. In addition to plant-based milks, many other plant-based foods are excellent sources of calcium.
Finally, plant-based sources of protein are nutritionally superior to animal sources for several reasons.
Plant-based protein sources such as nuts and seeds, legumes including all beans, lentils, peas and soy foods, provide essential amino acids and are excellent sources of both soluble and insoluble fibers. Regular intake of these foods is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Data shows that more Americans are interested in incorporating more plant-based options into their diets; this is a very positive shift the Committee should encourage this further and recommend more availability of these options in institutions nationwide.
As the Committee evaluates ways to develop patterns that promote long term health, it is critical to provide guidance establishing plant-based foods as the foundation for optimal health.