The beginnings of the word vegan are still unclear but plant-based food has been a part of every cuisine around the world. Some people reject animal products for religion, some do it because of culture, some are too moved by the plight of countless animals whisked into slaughterhouses; one thing is clear — plants have been a source of our nourishment even before our prehistoric ancestors learnt to hunt. In recent years, the debate about the credibility of veganism and its seemingly miraculous benefits have done rounds on the internet, even extending the discussion to school debates and newspaper column banter. Smoothie bowls, matcha lattes, and exotic salads became an Instagram hit, and soon veganism became more than a diet, it became a lifestyle.
The mention of veganism almost instantly evokes the memory of haunting visuals from PETA videos, and it is safe to say, animal activism is a fundamental characteristic that is fuelling the vegan movement worldwide. Often, converted vegans have spoken of these gruesome and haunting slaughterhouse videos as eye-openers, a catalyst to a change of heart. It’s safe to say that compassion can transform lives. A lot of people would be sick to their stomachs if they saw how meat-processing facilities and “free-range” farms transformed living and thinking animals into neatly packaged meat on the shelf.
Meet your meat
Veganism also found an advocate in various renowned medical professionals who claimed that turning vegan could potentially reverse chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, muscular degeneration, and various types of cancer. In a study of 177 people with heart disease, the majority of the people who stuck to a purely plant-based diet observed an easing of their symptoms, and unbelievably, 22 of them reversed their heart ailment, as proved by test results! Whether or not these reports and case studies are to be believed, one thing’s for sure — a vegan diet most certainly helps with longevity. Research shows that a plant-based diet is a cost-effective, low-risk intervention that can lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, lipids, and cholesterol levels. A plant-based diet has also been found to lower insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity.
°What’s Not to Like?
Non-vegetarians typically renounce a plant-based diet citing lack of protein in vegetarian food. While it is true that flesh is a good source of protein, the notion that plants lack protein, i.e. different types of amino acids; has been found to be false. In the Netflix Originals documentary The Game Changers, scientists recognized after numerous tests and studies that most Roman Gladiators, the most fierce and powerful warriors in ancient history, were on a plant-based diet. The argument that a plant-based diet can not provide enough energy to train, do hardcore athletics or get stronger is baseless, because it is a simple biological truth that energy is derived from carbohydrates — which is found in plenty in fresh fruits, starchy vegetables, root veggies like carrots, legumes, and grains, as well as carb-abundant and easily-available (also guilt-free!) rice, quinoa or god old potatoes!
°A Diet for The Rich?
Misled by the colourful vegan bowls and lush spreads of tropical fruits on Instagram, veganism has achieved quite a reputation as an expensive lifestyle. In reality, our most accessible comfort foods — rajma chawal, dosa chutney, aloo tikki, nachos and pakode — all come from purely plant-based ingredients! The fact that we think veganism is synonymous with being a sad salad connoisseur is nothing but bad marketing and a lack of awareness of the variety of textures and flavours that plants can provide.
If you’re a non-vegetarian interested in exploring plant-based nutrition, starting by reducing your meat intake to only 2-3 times per week is a great start. Increase your food intake in the form of evenly spaced and small snack breaks, comprising of nuts and seeds, fruit smoothies, fresh juices, oat offerings, and plant-based protein options such as tofu, tempeh or our regular comfort food- chhole!
The global vegan food market size was valued at $12.69 billion in 2018 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.6% between 2019 to 2025. With many plant-based dairy brands setting shop in Indian cities, the vegan movement is as strong in India as anywhere else.
Learn the nitty-gritty of plant-based nutrition for Indians and easy vegan Indian recipes here.
Covid19 exposed the critically dangerous consequences of mass breeding animals, following the H1N1 epidemic, SARS and MERS. In a world where animals are systematically hoarded, fed antibiotics to survive the deplorable conditions and cut in open markets- it was only a matter of time that a spill-over infection took place. After Covid19 reached all shores across the globe, a widely shared quote “If you actually want to create global pandemics, then build factory farms.” illustrated the fact that outbreaks like bird flu, swine flu and the much-feared coronavirus pandemic will just become more and more common if we continue to exploit animals to consume their cadavers. While meat certainly tastes delicious, it’s a fact that a plant-based diet is superior from an ecological and ethical perspective.
The rising cost of healthcare around the world, coupled with the depressing news of the pandemic has forced us to re-evaluate our health and lifestyle. Choose your diet wisely, and learn all the facts before you take a leap- just remember, as long as you feel good, you are eating right!
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