In a country that is the world’s leading producer of milk and also happens to have one of the largest population of vegetarians, the concept of veganism is not just alien but also practically unknown. Yet, veganism i.e. the practice of abstaining from animal products in one’s diet is one of the biggest global food trends today. Here’s a look at what exactly goes into a vegan diet, its benefits, and whether being a vegan is actually possible in a country like ours.
Who is a vegan?
A person who shuns usage of all products derived from animals in his/her life – not just diet, is a vegan. This means no dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter, ghee, non eg, and also no silk sarees, fancy purses made from animal skin, and no to a lot of cosmetics that use animal products as base.
How do vegans get their nutrition?
Going animal products-free does not mean vegans can’t get their full dose of nutrition. Their essential sources include:
- Protein from pulses, chickpeas, tofu, peas, peanut butter, almonds, spinach, rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes, etc.
- Milk substitutes include almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk.
- Fat from vegetable oils and margarine, nuts, avocado, and coconut.
Health benefits of a vegan diet
- Being low on fat and calories, vegans are able to lose more weight and have a lower BMI
- Studies show a vegan diet can help reverse diabetes and also regulate blood pressure thereby being extremely beneficial for those at risk of heart disease
- Being a plant based diet, it increases immunity and is also known to reduce cancer risk
- Plant foods are rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals making vegan diet a gut-friendly and inflammation reducing one
- No preservatives in a vegan diet also mean it is great for your skin and helps keep that glow intact
Mumbai based Kajal Bhatia, a vegan expert who specializes in plant nutrition, says “A plant based diet, if planned with the right nutritional needs, can bring the body to its state of natural health. The idea is to combine the right foods such as the cooked and raw.”
Is a vegan diet meant for everyone?
This is a hot debate among experts the world over. While some say it is the best diet to adopt, most are sceptical. Clinical nutritionist Dr Nupur Krishnan has a word of caution for all those going gaga over veganism. She advises “Diets like vegan and Yo-Yo are not meant for everyone. Your body type determines whether or not a particular diet is right for you. Even if you do decide to go vegan, do it for a short while”. For those suffering from vitamin B12 deficiency, giving up on meat and fish would mean further deficiency and hence going vegan is not an option.
Going by the parameters as set by the Indian Council of Medical Research, the ideal food pyramid shows milk, sugar, oil, and meat as a must-have part of the diet.
How about going part-time vegan?
Experts say trying a ‘flexible’ vegan diet three days a week, is a better idea than forcing your body into it at one-go. On your vegan days, go off meat, dairy products, and processed food completely and consume only vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and other plant products.
The price of veganism in India
Getting vegan food is not just difficult but also expensive in a country like ours that regards milk as sacred and loves its dairy products. While replacing milk with almond milk and paneer with tofu has its costs, ardent vegans will tell you that this is a better long term investment than having to spend on hospital bills for hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. The bottom line – inculcating a healthy lifestyle matters more than following any particular diet. If you do wish to go vegan, make sure to consult a nutritionist before who can check your body type and recommend the best way to go about it.