Nutritional Assessment of the Symptomatic Patient on a Plant-Based Diet: Seven Key Questions.
Plant-based diets, both vegan and vegetarian, which emphasize grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds are increasingly popular for health as well as financial, ethical, and religious reasons. The medical literature clearly demonstrates that whole food plant-based diets can be both nutritionally sufficient and medically beneficial. However, any person on an intentionally restrictive, but poorly-designed diet may predispose themselves to clinically-relevant nutritional deficiencies. For persons on a poorly-designed plant-based diet, deficiencies are possible in both macronutrients (protein, essential fatty acids) and micronutrients (vitamin B12, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin D). Practitioner evaluation of symptomatic patients on a plant-based diet requires special consideration of seven key nutrient concerns for plant-based diets. This article translates these concerns into seven practical questions that all practitioners can introduce into their patient assessments and clinical reasoning. Ideally, persons on plant-based diets should be able to answer these seven questions. Each serves as a heuristic prompt for both clinician and patient attentiveness to a complete diet. As such, these seven questions support increased patient nutrition knowledge and practitioner capacity to counsel, refer, and appropriately focus clinical resources.