Vegan nutritionists perform a function identical to that of any standard nutritionist, but within the context of a vegan diet. Their job is to look at the dietary habits and overall health of their patients and clients and make recommendations to ensure that those people are eating in the healthiest way possible. A nutritionist who specializes in vegan diets must understand how that special diet affects the patients he or she will see. The vegan nutritionist also must be aware of changing research and medical studies, as well as trends and variations in the vegan diet.
A person who chooses to follow a vegan diet does not consume any product that is directly from, or derived from animals. This dietary restriction removes consumption of meat proteins as well as vitamins from dairy products. Instead, the entire vegan diet is based primarily on foods that originate from plants and trees. This presents a unique challenge for a vegan nutritionist.
To best serve vegan patients, a vegan nutritionist must be proactive in staying current with medical research. There have been several instances in which rumors, gossip and incidental studies have provided incorrect and sometimes dangerous medical advice. The nutritionist must weigh all of the scientific information available and come to a decision based on that information in conjunction with his or her own medical training.
There are several specific practices that a vegan nutritionist must help his or her patients maintain if they are to have optimal health. A poorly planned vegan diet can leave a person feeling lethargic and possibly lacking in vital nutrients. A nutritionist can help to develop a diet of vegan foods that works with the body in the proportions necessary for a healthy lifestyle.
Several unique factors are more of a concern for those who are following a vegan diet than for others. One of the largest problems a vegan nutritionist must confront is the potential lack of calories in a diet. Simply by eating plant-based foods in proportions that non-vegans eat them, the necessary number of calories might not be achieved in a day and can cause a loss of energy.
The levels of certain minerals and nutrients in the body also must be monitored. Vitamins such as B12 have no reliable sources in a plant-based diet, ultimately leading to the necessity for supplements or fortified foods. Omega-3 fatty acids, one type of which occurs exclusively in fish, cannot be directly replaced and instead must be found in supplements. Even basic vitamins such as D and calcium need to be added to a vegan diet, and a vegan nutritionist can help people find a way to effectively incorporate these missing essentials.