2. "Meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products are the principal
sources of riboflavin and a much simpler alternative than menu-planning
These foods are the principal sources of riboflavin for people
consuming animal-centered diets. For those consuming plant-centered
vegan or near-vegan diets, nutritional yeast, vegetables, nuts,
seeds, whole grains and legumes are the key sources of riboflavin.
Our critics may think using nutritional yeast and other good plant
sources of riboflavin is "menu-planning calisthenics", but that
depends entirely on one's point of view. For people who eat plant-centered
diets, nutritional yeast, and other plant sources of riboflavin
are frequently a regular part of their eating pattern, just as meat
and milk would be for an omnivore.
1. "Someone unfamiliar with nutrient contents of food may look
at the values presented and accept them at face value. A nutrition
expert, such as a dietitian should have read these values and questioned
them immediately. Some of the values are grossly inaccurate (riboflavin).
These obvious inaccuracies cast doubt on the credibility of the
other values and claims. The authors fail to mention the source
of data for their analysis, and how they were calculated. There
was an apparent lack of attention to detail. Nutrient analysis is
a highly specialized area of dietetic practice and should be left
to the experts. "
This is rather harsh criticism considering that our analysis differed
significantly for only one nutrient -- riboflavin, not "some" as
our critics suggest. Furthermore the error seems to be in the analysis
conducted under the direction of the Dairy Bureau staff. Perhaps
the firm hired by the Dairy Bureau did not have Red Star T-6635+
nutritional yeast or other products frequently used by vegetarians
in their data base. Our analyses involved tremendous attention to
such detail -- indeed, we obtained nutritional analyses for special
products directly from the food manufacturers and added these to
both our data bases (Nutritionist IV and Nutricom). Each analysis
was done by both the authors of Becoming Vegetarian and independent
nutrition consultants. The difference in riboflavin values between
the Dairy Bureau's analysis and our own was most likely due to their
omission of Red Star T-6635+ nutritional yeast in our eggless egg
1. Re: observations regarding menus: "When we look at the actual
menu on p. 41, we find some subtle indications that the authors
may be biased against an omnivorian diet...The authors have deliberately
made poor food choices to make their point... Making poor food choices
doesn't prove that animal products such as dairy products are bad
for you. If the milk choices were eliminated from this menu plan,
the omnivore would still be making poor food choices. The authors
fail to recognize other lifestyle factors that may have a greater
impact on health."
In selecting a food pattern for the omnivore, we were making choices
that were reasonably typical of the most Canadians. This menu derives
only 33% of its calories as fat, significantly less than the average
Canadian. In addition, the omnivore selects the appropriate number
of foods from each of the four food groups (many Canadians do not!).
They also select lean meat, trim the skin off the chicken and use
low fat dairy products. The omnivore also consumes whole wheat toast
and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (7 servings). To say that
we deliberately made poor food choices for the omnivore is simply
untrue; indeed, we made better choices than what most North American
2. "The reader would have benefited from a balanced approach...
The authors could have presented three menus (omnivore, lacto-ovo
and vegan) with similar protein, fat and carbohydrate...The menus
are blatantly written to support the authors' agenda - to put all
animal products in a bad light without scientific support or just
It would have been of little value to present menus with similar
protein, fat and carbohydrate, when that does not reflect reality
for these different patterns of eating. One of the primary advantages
of switching from an animal-centered to a plant-centered diet is
to affect change in the contribution of these macronutrients to
the diet. The WHO tells us to increase our use of plant foods and
decrease our use of animal foods in order to help us reduce total
and saturated fat and cholesterol while increasing complex carbohydrate
and fibre in the diet. Planning these three diets with equal amounts
of fat, carbohydrate and protein would be ignoring the simple fact
that animal-centered diets are naturally higher in fat and protein
and lower in carbohydrates and fibre than plant-centered diets because
animal foods don't contain carbohydrates and fibre -- with the exception
of lactose in milk.
Our goal in writing this book was not to condemn animal products
used for food, but rather to educate those individuals who wish
to reduce or eliminate these products from their diet so that they
can achieve excellent health. We are well aware of the nutritional
value of animal products. They are concentrated sources of high
quality protein, and numerous vitamins and minerals. However, it
is also important to recognize that there are many individuals for
whom consuming some or all animal foods is morally and ethically
unacceptable. As professional dietitians, it is our responsibility
to provide advice that is not only scientifically sound, but that
respects their beliefs and values of our clients.
3. "As one might expect given the authors' bias, this menu has
been designed to exemplify the alleged virtues of a meatless diet
-- low in fat, low in protein. However, the menu is not without
its problems. It requires a great deals of planning and time-consuming
preparation as well as repetition."
The vegan menu is not as time consuming as one might imagine. When
a person becomes familiar with a variety of plant foods and their
preparation, vegan meals can be as quick to prepare as animal-centered
meals. There are a wide variety of ready made patties and other
convenience items on the market. Tofu cooks quickly and has no bones
to remove before preparation. A vegan menu need not be any more
repetitious than an omnivorous menu.
1. "Eating the same foods repeatedly day-after-day is monotonous,
and probably would not work in the long term and the implication
is that all dark green leafy vegetables have equally bioavailable
calcium is just not so." [referring to our suggestion to eat dark
This seems like a bit of a double standard -- it is just fine to
drink milk and eat dairy products day-after-day, but not greens.
In many cultures, greens are a part of the daily diet. There is
a huge variety of delicious greens, and thousands of ways of preparing
them to taste wonderful.
2. "Tahini is high in fat and finding ways to use it on a daily
basis would be a real challenge." [referring to our suggestion to
find delicious ways of using tahini].
Eating any food on a daily basis is a matter of culture and personal
preference. However, we did not suggest consuming it on a daily
basis, rather simply to find delicious ways of using it.
3. "Is this a practical suggestion? The availability of nori outside
large metropolitan centres or on the coast is questionable." [referring
to our suggestion to try Oriental favorites that use seaweeds such
as nori and hijiki].
This was one of many suggestions for increasing consumption of
calcium-rich plant foods for vegans. While it may not be practical
for all vegans, it is a food that is commonly used among this population,
and it is important for them to be aware of this food as a source
4. "Infants need breast milk or iron-fortified formula, whether
soy- or milk-based. Moreover, soy-based formulas may be allergenic
in some infants, as previously mentioned on page 9, especially those
under four months of age." [referring to our suggestion that infants
need breast milk or fortified soy formula].
The suggestions above were written for people who do not consume
dairy. Why would we tell vegans to feed their baby cow's milk formula?
This would be useless advice. Their babies need breast milk or soy
formula, however, we feel that breast milk is by far the preferable
5. "Calcium-fortified foods lack vitamin D. The question is - why
use a calcium fortified food instead of a milk product that naturally
The answer is found in our section entitled "Reasons why people
limit or eliminate dairy products". Vitamin D could be added to
vegan beverages just as it is added to cow's milk (there are several
non-dairy beverages available in the U.S. which have both calcium
and vitamin D added). Calcium-fortified foods would provide additional
calcium to those vegans or near-vegans who have difficulty meeting
their needs for these nutrients.
6. "Protein has been proven to be "a calcium thief" of any consequence
only in the presence of a low calcium diet. "
Protein increases our calcium needs. Our recommendations for calcium
are higher in North America than many other countries largely because
of our high protein intakes which increase our calcium needs.
Health Canada in Nutrition Recommendations (Calcium section --
page 133) states:
"It cannot be assumed, however, that the low calcium intake of
women living in countries with a cereal-based food economy (400-500
mg/day) is necessarily adequate for women consuming a [high protein]
7. "Red meats are an excellent source of phosphorus, which protects
the bones from being robbed of their calcium." [referring to our
statement: "Don't keep company with the calcium thieves; avoid high
intakes of salt, alcohol, caffeine and concentrated protein foods."]
This, the final profound statement in this critique, is so grossly
inaccurate, it makes one question the extent to which the nutritionists
at the Dairy Bureau understand the complex subject of calcium balance.
Here is what the experts are currently saying about the affects
of phosphorus on bones:
"My own research has shown that multiple nutrition factors, including
low intakes of calcium coupled with high intakes of phosphorus (and
also protein and sodium), may adversely affect the maintenance and
retention of bone mass of young adult females"1
"The culprit, in terms of bone loss among high phosphorus consumers,
seems to be an elevated serum PTH concentration, which increases
bone resorption and hence bone turnover...Sufficient amounts of
calcium and not too much phosphorus are needed not only to support
mineralization of bone tissue but also to suppress excessive and
persistent elevations of circulation PTH."2
"Concern about the relatively high levels of phosphorus in the
adult U.S. diet and its role in the development of osteoporosis
stems from animal studies. High phosphorus intake, even with adequate
calcium intake, has been shown to cause secondary hyperparathyroidism,
bone loss and osteopenia in a variety of animal models...There is
good evidence that phosphorus loading in humans operates through
the same mechanism of nutritional or secondary hyperparathyroidism
observed in animals fed excess phosphorus." 3
"Urinary calcium is also affected by the intake of phosphorus.
Excess dietary phosphate produces a mild depression in serum calcium
similar to that produced by a low calcium intake. The consequent
rise in serum parathyroid hormone induces an analogous increase
in mobilization of calcium from the skeleton..."4
"...the optimal ratio between calcium and phosphorus in the diet
has been questioned, because animal studies suggest that diets low
in calcium-phosphorus ratios lead to progressive bone loss due to
phosphorus-induced stimulation of parathyroid hormone (PTH) release."5
The effect of phosphorus on bone health can be confusing, particularly
because phosphorus increases reabsorption of calcium from the kidneys.
However, one would expect that the dietitians employed by the Dairy
Bureau of Canada would be knowledgeable and up-to-date where calcium
nutrition is concerned, as this is their primary area of interest.
Stating that red meat protects bones from being robbed of their
calcium is a serious mistake -- one that we would have never expected
from professionals who wish to make it their business to educate
other dietitians and the general public on matters of calcium balance.
1. Anderson, J.B., Symposium: Nutritional Advances in Human Bone
Metabolism, American Institute of Nutrition. J. Nutr. 126: 1150S-1152S,
2. Anderson, J.B., Symposium: Nutritional Advances in Human Bone
Metabolism, Calcium, Phosphorus and Human Bone Development, American
Institute of Nutrition. J. Nutr. 126: 1153S-1158S, 1996.
3. Calvo, M.S. and Park, Y.K., Changing Phosphorus Content of
the U.S. Diet: Pot