With a wealth of health propaganda and vast growing superfood products on the market, veganism has soured and become an epidemic. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, there are around 7.5 million vegetarian people in the US and 1 percent (2.5 million people) are vegan. In the United Kingdom, 542,000 people aged 15 or over are vegan and that number is growing. According to the Vegan Society, veganism is now one of Britain’s ‘Fastest growing lifestyle movements.
Veganism mainly surfaced to our attention in the west during the 70’s hippy movement but its roots are in religions such as Rastafarianism, Jainism and Buddhism. Rastafarians eat ‘Ital’ foods which comes from the word ‘Vital’. These foods are naturally grown, free of chemicals and do not derive out of animal suffering. Some sects of Jains and Buddhists have vegan diets to lessen animal suffering which results in a poor karmic debt.
So exactly what do vegans eat? Vegans eat a plant based diet and eliminate all food produced from animals. This includes, milk, eggs, honey and silk. Veganism is not just solely based on diet but a holistic lifestyle change. It excludes all forms of exploitation and cruelty whether that be from the food industry, clothing or cosmetics. It’s about making conscious choices on what we eat, wear and how we live our lives. However, information on veganism has gone into overdrive and may feel overwhelming to assess whether this is a sensible diet or lifestyle.
I grew up as a strict vegetarian. As a child I refused to drink milk and still don’t drink it. I did try meat in my 20s but wasn’t impressed and I didn’t feel good after eating it. I became vegan for many years but have slipped back due to chocolate- my weakness. The substitutes don’t do the trick. Though I don’t like the labels I would describe myself as vague-an: predominately vegan, but occasionally I give in to chocolate, but won’t compromise on drinking milk raw. There are plentiful vegan food products and it’s not a boring way of life. However this lifestyle is difficult when abroad and I resort to cheese and butter. I can say I am more cognizant of my choices though and I certainly do not go hungry.
With the right balanced diet, the benefits of veganism are endless. Vegans have a lower risk of cancer and have better digestive health for sure. Surprisingly bone heath is improved vastly and with the consumption of zero animal’s fats, this combats heart disease and protects against chronic illness. Fact is that vegans live longer. There are endless recipes and varieties of wholesome, filling and fun vegan food. However there are dangers linked to veganism that we should be aware of before taking the plunge. I have tried a wide range of meat-free, diary-free cheeses and diary substitutes without looking into the downfalls.
Soya and Substitutes.
Soya/ soy is a meat substitute or a freak of nature as I like to call it are made out of genetically engineered soya beans. Soya is very popular especially for those missing meat and it tastes good too. But the issue is that Soy/soya is that it contains Isoflavones that raise oestrogen levels and lowers testosterone. This is a hormone disrupter and has been linked to having a devastating effects on fertility, thyroid problems and has been linked to Hypertrophic Cardiomypathy (HCM), a condition where the heart gets thicker making it hard to pass blood around the body. Other meat subs like tofu and Quorn are high in processed GMO’s and should be reduced from your diet. According to the late Dr Sebi ‘’Soy is a complex starch that creates sulphide in the body. It in turn eats up iron and oxygen. Think twice.
With the rise of the milk alternatives on the shelf it is easy to assume that they are healthier. However most non-diary milks often have excess sugar, water, soya, thickeners and gum stabiliser in them which are not natural ingredients. I would opt for an organic unsweetened variety or make your own at home. Just milk some nuts! Seriously. Blanch a cup of cashews and almonds in hot water until they go soft. Then blend part water and the nuts until they become liquidised. Sieve them through and serve. This tastes amazing and you get all the nutritional benefits of the cashews and almonds that are naturally rich in calcium and other goodies.
Most vegan cheeses contain far more fat content than diary cheese due to the processed nature of the manufacturing. With products being vegan people often assume they are good for you and will consume more. Shop wisely or swap vegan cheese for nutritional flakes instead as these have a cheesy flavour. This contains B12 an essential nutrient for carrying oxygen around the body and treating anaemia which is common in non-meat eaters. Hummus or avocados are great alternatives to cheese and contain good essential fats. Taking a supplement of vitamins that contain fat soluble vitamins is a must as vegans will not get these essential fats from food.
Additives and GMOs
There are extra additive’s and GMOs in meat subs and readymade vegan meals because they are designed to have a prolonged shelf life. Try and make more food from scratch using fresh ingredients and have ready meals as a treat only. Eat raw or fresh food and flavor it with non-processed seasonings like limes, lemons, sea salt, black pepper, paprika and turmeric.
Protein shake ups
There seems to be this misconception that if you become vegan then all of a sudden you will become protein deficient. Well there is no such thing! Taking extra protein shakes are not always easy on the digestion and are often packed with too much sugars. There is protein in almost every food so you won’t miss out. For example, one fourth of kidney beans and chick peas has the equivalent of 1 pound of meat. 1 tbs of peanut butter equals 1 pound of meat so that’s good protein sources for lean muscle. For more, increase your intake of peas, dhal (lentils) broccoli, chick peas, nuts and the list goes on.
Author: Reena Jaisiah
Author Bio: Reena Kumari (aka Desi medicine woman) is a holistic therapist and a Health and Lifestyle advisor. Reena is a UK born woman of the Indus Valley with a burning passion for Ayurveda natural remedies and spends most of my free time making home-grown and organic cosmetics.