Jump on the band vegan
Photo: M. Periasamy
What’s it like to be a vegan? We get the details…
A VEGAN OPTION Fresh vegetables
I eat everything that Nature voluntarily gives: fruits, vegetables, and the products of plants. But I ask you to spare me what animals are forced to surrender: meat, milk and cheese. — Author Unknown
All right. So, we know who a vegan is. Someone who does not include even dairy products in his daily diet. Milk, butter, curd, cheese, paneer and ghee are, therefore, a strict no-no for him.
But why do people go in for veganism in the first place? The reasons are aplenty, just as it is for vegetarianism, we find, on the heels of World Vegetarian Day earlier this week. Says Ranjit Konkar, trustee of the Pune-based NGO, Beauty Without Cruelty: “It could be for ethical or health reasons, considering the importance given to plant-based diets.” Also, a few consider it a fad to be vegan, adds this faculty member of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.
Embracing veganism is fine, but is it easy to stick to it? Vegetarian Ananya recalls what happened when she tried turning vegan. “My mother had to prepare roti without ghee and temper rasam with oil. Soy milk did not suit me, and I was nauseous after consuming roasted tofu. Downing a glass of milk was much easier and faster than going in for an assortment of nuts and dry fruits. After a six-month struggle, I gave up.”
However, such instances are rare. N.G. Jayasimha, Campaigns Manager, PeTa India, Mumbai, says it is all about making an informed choice. Agrees Konkar, who has been a vegan for 16 years now. “Our roti, dhal and chawal make for the best vegan diet. In fact, 80 per cent of our diet is vegan. Even when I travel to other countries, I manage with fruits and vegetables.”
Eating out, visiting friends and relatives, and social acceptability could come in the way of being a vegan, but once you decide your path, it is easy walk on it. If one looks out consciously, there are many vegan-friendly products even in our supermarkets.
Does being a vegan mean giving up on your coffee and ice-cream? “Not at all. Alternatives such as soy milk, tofu and non-dairy creamers, are not only similar in taste, but also healthier,” says Jayasimha.
So, is it a myth that milk is good for your health? Yes, says Mumbai-based nutritionist and health activist Vijaya Venkat. “Only human beings drink the milk of other animals. We are basically fruitarians, and the first step towards better health should be stopping milk and meat products.” Opt for coconut milk, tender coconut water or milk from nuts instead.
Jayasimha says that according to a joint statement released by the American Dietetic Association and Dieticians of Canada: “Well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of life, including during pregnancy and lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”
We can get all the calcium we need from green leafy vegetables, fortified orange juice, tofu and soya milk; protein from oats, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, nuts, seeds, tofu, beans and peanut butter; and iron from raisins, almonds, dried apricots and fortified grain cereals, it adds.
“To promote veganism, the Government should bring to light the appalling condition of the animals in our country’s dairy. Male calves are either killed or starved to death, just so that we get milk,” says Konkar. The Government could also join hands with NGOs for the cause.
Of course, there always arises the question of using medicines that have ingredients of animal origin, or those tested on animals. Konkar says: “It is about keeping oneself healthy, and making exceptions for emergencies.”
If one goes by the number of members in online vegan communities or the fact that there was a recent vegan festival in our country or that Café Coffee Day actually offers vegan options, this tribe is slowly but surely increasing. But, whether it will take the world by storm, only time will tell.
Till then, if you need inspiration, read this: In an interview to Pritish Nandy, Maneka Gandhi once famously said: “My son has never drunk milk in his life. He is six feet tall and has never been sick for even a single day!”
How can we finish the story without a list of celebrity vegans? The gorgeous Alicia Silverstone, Drew Barrymore, Natalie Portman, Anoushka Shankar, Pamela Anderson, Bryan Adams, Joaquin Phoenix and Carl Lewis!
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