Are Plant-Based Foods & Meat Safe for Autistic People?

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There are a variety of concerns about the potential effects of meat consumption on autistic individuals, including heightened mercury and lead levels. The risks to those with an autism spectrum disorder from these substances remain unclear.

The “plant-based diet for beginners” is a new trend in the plant-based movement. The diet has many benefits, but it also comes with its downsides.


Autism sufferers have gastrointestinal issues at a greater incidence than the normal population. Due to their increased sensitivity to strange textures or scents, they often suffer food aversions or refusals.

It may be difficult to get children with autism to eat a nutritious diet, but your behavior therapist may assist you. Different kinds of diets, such as the gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet, may be considered if you wish to support your child’s gut health.

Plant-based or even vegan diets entail include more fruits and vegetables in your child’s meals, but it’s also crucial to know how to obtain adequate protein and other essential elements for growth. While meat is a fantastic method to get protein into your diet, there are plenty of other options, such as plant-based meat replacements like tofu and tempeh.

Consider seeing a nutritionist to figure out how to get your child’s diet to include adequate protein, choline, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients. An ostensibly healthful plant-based diet may be less healthier than consuming meat if these requirements are not met.

In People With Autism, a Healthy Diet vs. Gastrointestinal Issues

More evidence suggests that persons on the autistic spectrum have gastrointestinal issues. Indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea are examples of these problems. Despite the fact that medical research on the efficacy of dietary changes have been limited, anecdotal data from persons on the autistic spectrum and parents of children with autism shows that specific dietary changes may help ease some of these gastrointestinal issues.

The gluten-free, casein-free diet is one of the most common ways to maintain gut health in persons with autism (GFCF). Wheat and dairy products are not allowed in this regimen since they might cause digestive problems. While this diet plan allows for meat such as beef or chicken, some individuals wish to take it a step further to enhance their health and ensure they get enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals. To do this, they consume more plant-based foods, such as meat substitutes with plant-based proteins and plant-heavy meals.

These significant dietary modifications offer health advantages, but they also have drawbacks.

People with autism may be sensitive to a lot of fiber, which may cause digestive problems. Plant-based diets may still be unbalanced since they lack protein and amino acids in certain cases. A plant-based or even a vegan diet may not be beneficial to everyone’s brain health.

Simply switching to a plant-based diet isn’t enough. Instead, you must examine the diet’s probable flaws and then build the diet to compensate for them. A plant-based diet, when done correctly, may be tremendously beneficial to a person with autism.

Plant-Based Proteins That Are Good for You

Protein is one of the most important elements to consider while designing a plant-based diet. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adults should consume at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. A 165-pound person, for example, should have roughly 60 grams of protein each day. Protein should be consumed in greater quantities by those who are physically active or pregnant.

Animal products, such as cheese, milk, poultry, steaks, burgers, and other meats, provide the majority of people’s protein. Today, more individuals are attempting to live the healthiest lifestyle possible, which includes avoiding high-fat, low-fiber meals by eating a plant-based diet.

The following are some of the greatest plant-based protein sources:

  • Half-cup of edamame (soybeans) has 8.5 grams of protein.
  • Quinoa, a grain that may be used in lieu of rice or couscous, has around 8 grams of protein per cup.
  • Tofu, a fermented soybean product, has 15 grams of protein every half-cup.
  • Per cooked half-cup of lentils, there are roughly 8.5 grams of protein. They’re high in fiber, iron, and potassium as well.
  • Per half-cup of chickpeas or garbanzo beans, there are 7.25 grams of protein.
  • Per half-cup of peanuts, there are 20.5 grams of protein. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter provide roughly 8 grams of protein.
  • Almonds are a strong source of vitamin E and offer 16.5 grams of protein per half-cup.
  • A tablespoon of chia seeds contains roughly 2 grams of protein. They’re also high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which are uncommon in plant-based proteins.
  • Spirulina, a blue or green algae, has around 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons. It’s often marketed as a powder, making it simple to include into any dish.
  • Broccoli and dark leafy green veggies provide higher protein than other green foods.

It is critical to consume a diverse variety of plant-based meals. While plant-based meats have their place in a vegan diet, try to consume “whole foods” rather than processed imitation meat or vegetarian substitutes as much as possible.

Aversions to Food in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

People on the autistic spectrum have heightened sensitivity to textures and scents, particularly when it comes to food. When a result, many autistic children develop food aversions and refuse to try new foods as their parents attempt to introduce them to their diet.

Many children on the autism spectrum suffer digestive problems when they consume raw fruits and vegetables, making eating a balanced diet difficult. Autistic children may come to trust just a few foods, limiting their eating options and maybe putting them at risk of malnutrition.

Working with your child’s behavior therapist may assist you in overcoming food aversions in general, allowing you to integrate healthful fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet. Nutritionists and ABA therapists may advise introducing meals gradually to build a child’s tolerance.

You may begin by placing a new meal on the table but not feeding it to the youngster. After that, you may place a little taste of food on their plate but don’t have to force them to eat it. Encourage them to take a little mouthful of the new dish at some point. This gradual approach might help the youngster overcome his or her aversion to tasting new foods.

If you decide to attempt the GFCF diet, working with a nutritionist to establish meal plans that include adequate plant-based protein is an excellent option. This expert can also assist you in avoiding too many processed meals and establishing a solid basis for long-term healthy eating choices. Keep in mind that the behaviors you establish today will follow your kid into adulthood.

When planning a plant-based diet, be aware of nutrient deficiencies.

There is some evidence that a completely vegan diet does not promote brain growth, which may be problematic for autistic children.

Choline, an important vitamin, was found to be low in most plant-based diets, particularly vegan diets, according to a research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). In contrast to B12 or amino acids, this vitamin receives less attention in the media, yet it is critical for brain development, particularly prenatal brain development. It’s also good for the liver. Although the body creates some choline, it is insufficient to meet all of its needs.

Beef, eggs, fish, poultry, and dairy items like yogurt and cheese all contain choline. It may be found in small levels in several plant-based meals, such as dark green vegetables, beans, and nuts. The United States Institute of Medicine issued choline recommendations in 1998, advising that women consume at least 425 milligrams per day and males consume at least 550 milligrams per day.

You must examine how much protein your kid gets to support their development if you want your child to consume a plant-based diet influenced by the GFCF diet. A diet that includes a broad range of foods and as little processed food as possible will provide the maximum nourishment.

In the end, both plant-based and meat-based diets are safe for autistic persons, but the overall diet pattern is crucial. Consult your physician if you have any concerns about your child’s health while on this diet. If you have access to a nutritionist, engage with them to ensure that your child’s diet is balanced.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment and Intervention Services (Updated September 2019) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a U.S. government agency that (CDC).

Beyond Picky, Fussy, and Fads: Mealtime with Children on the Autism Spectrum The Indiana Resource Center for Autism is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with autism

The Top 15 Plant-Based Protein Sources (April of this year). Today’s Medical News

The Potential Role of Protein Digestion and Microbial Putrefaction in the Gut-Brain Axis in Autism Spectrum Disorders Dietary Considerations (April 2018). Nutrition’s New Frontiers

Vegan and plant-based diets are bad for your brain (September 2019). News in Neuroscience

What Parents Should Know About Veganism (In January of 2020) Harvard Medical School is a prestigious medical school in Boston.

Can Diet Treat Autism? U.S. News & World Report.

The Gut Microbiota and the Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets (April 2019). Nutrition’s New Frontiers

Animal fat is required for the brain (March 2019). Today’s Psychology.

The “plant-based diet vs vegan” is a question that many people ask. The answer to the question is not simple because it depends on what type of plant-based food and how much meat is consumed.

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