In the past couple of years, the philosophy of veganism has grown popular in our country. From vegan restaurants to the availability of vegan products at supermarkets, you will find them in every nook and corner of the metropolitan cities. While vegan food is believed to be clean, healthy and nutritious, it does have an expensive reputation. If you've ever dined at a vegan cafe or shelled out money on vegan products, you would know that they could be a tad bit more expensive than regular products. Why is that so? Is there a particular marketing agenda behind it? Or is it just in our heads? To put these questions to rest, we touched base with Celebrity Nutritionist & Food Coach, Ryan Fernando. Here's what he had to say.
RF: Veganism has always been around for a long time, but more so with people who are vegetarians. Veganism means that one doesn’t consume meat or any products from animals like milk, eggs or honey. It's mostly plant-based organic food like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. There are many benefits of going vegan, and here are a few of them.
Researchers over the years are pointing out that a vegetarian diet has a lesser risk of getting cancer. You have a perspective saying that a non-vegetarian diet moves you towards more cancer risk. This is referred to in a book called The China Study.
Red meats have been touted to form plaques that block arteries and cause atherosclerosis in people. Therefore red meat diet has not only been linked to cancer but also heart diseases. So, as a result, veganism seems to be a perspective to go forward.
Over the last decade, many people have realised that dairy products are high in cholesterol. Take the example of A2 and A1 milk. The latest research has shown that in an Indian segment population, those drinking A1 milk from Jersey cow & Holstein cow were more prone to diabetes and deranged cholesterol levels. So even milk could be a culprit towards ill health and lifestyle diseases. When you couple all of this together, veganism is a better choice.
There was a documentary released on Netflix in 2019 called The Game Changers that analyzed super athletes, strong men who had turned to a vegan diet. And their search also showed that there was absolutely no lack of performance from these athletes. One of the startling revelations in the Game Changer documentary was that many people decided to follow veganism because the studies showed the blood's turbidity being higher in the non-vegetarian intake.
Also, today, we are growing and becoming more sensitive as a society to our surroundings. There is a conscious effort to bring a humane approach to farming practices and prevent cruelty to animals. This is one of the main reasons why many activist groups are promoting a vegan lifestyle.
RF: Plenty of celebrities have ditched meat and have taken the vegan and vegetarian route. My client Virat Kohli has gone from being a butter chicken lover to becoming a vegan athlete. Although now he's doing vegetarianism, he may have an occasional egg now and then. So when you put the influencer in society, including dietitians, nutritionists, sports stars, doctors, film stars, and so many other people - the point is when one chooses a vegan diet, they should feel better. I think that it would be more pervasive in our mainstream following of diets in the future.
RF: I think this is just a positioning. In the food arena, people who follow veganism are more aware of their thinking. You're not looking at any local food joint which is serving the pav bhaji at the roadside. It is vegan, yes, and they're charging only 20 rupees for it vs a vegan cafe that charges 200 rupees for the same dish. What makes them different from one another is the choice of ingredients. The vegan cafe is more conscious of the ingredients they put into their dishes. There's organic potato in it, and instead of regular butter, they probably used plant-based butter instead. So there is a lot of detail that goes into the dish that pushes the price higher than regular street food veganism.
RF: As a nutritionist, over the last decade, I've seen fads come and go. Right from the Atkins diet to the GM diet to the Paleo diet, to the keto diet, and now, veganism! Each one of these will have a considerable subset of followers in any part of the world. However, I don't think it will become mainstream. I believe that people will experiment with veganism at some point in their lives starting anywhere from one week up to one quarter. Those that stay on will go beyond the quarter, those that can not survive without milk or eggs as vegetarians could choose to remain a vegetarian and not go the vegan way. Those who are pure non-vegetarians will find it extremely difficult to stick to the vegan diet because of the taste appeal and subsequent pleasure to the brain.
Will Veganism enhance health? Definitely yes from my desk. I believe it shows improved cholesterol profiles, improved anti-ageing profiles, improved recovery, a lower heart rate, and higher endurance. However, in my practice at QUA Nutrition Clinics, I did find that calcium and Vitamin B 12 levels may drop. The simple solution is to find vegan supplements to add and do a blood test frequently.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to an individual's food choices. Veganism may not be for everyone, but it's worth a try.
Note: If you're new to veganism, it's always best to loop in your dietician so that they can guide you and help you make the right food choices.
Featured Image: Unsplash & Ryan Fernando