The term excites some.Annoys some.Some get curious.Others dismiss it as a fad. As many swear by it.
I have gradually moved up the scale from “Err..sounds good but too far out for a lifestyle change” to “Hey! Makes sense and may be worth a good effort !”. The shift happened when my blood tests threw up ‘Mild Lactose Intolerance’, leading me to cut out most dairy from my diet. Surprisingly the feeling of fullness and discomfort seemed to vanish. I am a Vegetarian and though every now and then I make a batch of fresh almond milk, which is a delicious substitute for regular milk, there’s still a long way to go before I can call myself a Vegan!
Test reports aside, there’s the logic that can’t be refuted. Why would nature want any species to consume milk produced by another for its own?
While I am seriously considering adopting a Vegan diet, I was also pretty confused about where and how to start. Would I be able to meet my nutrition needs? Will I find easily available substitutes to dairy produce?Should I take baby steps or go the whole hog? Easy? Tough? Sources?The questions were endless and well, if I was looking for help, I guess there would be others too!
That’s when I reached out to Nandini Gulati ~ Holistic Health Coach, Wellness Consultant and a Vegan, who personally experienced a transformation by adopting a Vegan lifestyle (She lost 25 Kgs, reversed her high blood pressure,went off medication and normalised her high blood sugar levels, apart from feeling much more energetic and positive towards life!).
She also recently co-authored a book on Vegan Recipes – ‘Guilt-free Vegan Cookbook’ that can help make the shift.
Here’s a quick tété-á-tété with Nandini on ‘Being Vegan’.
NL : Hi Nandini, what exactly is being ‘Vegan’?
NG : The word Vegan applies to a lifestyle where people believe that animals are an integral part of nature and exist for their own reasons. They are not put on the planet to be exploited, killed, tortured or eaten by humans. Therefore, a fully vegan lifestyle would exclude the use of anything that comes from animals which is primarily food, clothing, pets and entertainment. Vegans also believe in the humane treatment of animals and do not support animal testing for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals or any other purpose.
NL : Adopting a Vegan lifestyle is increasingly catching on and there are many who may want to embrace it . As a beginner, how does one start to navigate this unfamiliar territory?
NG : The best place to start on this path that also creates the largest impact on animals, the environment and our health is – food.Apart from killing animals, lack of hygiene in the egg and dairy industries is appalling.You can read more here.The PETA India website also provides information on this subject.
Some people get overwhelmed when they think about cutting out meat, fish, eggs and dairy from their diet. The good news is that you don’t have to leave anything out, as there are plant-based substitutes for almost everything. You can make milkshakes out of bananas, ice-cream from frozen mangoes, substitute almond milk in tea, make your kheer in coconut milk, set curd from peanuts and cheese made of cashews or sunflower seeds.
NL : What benefits can one expect to see with a Vegan diet?
NG : Plant-based alternatives are healthier and combined with whole, unrefined food can help you lower your cholesterol, prevent and even reverse diabetes, high blood pressure and a host of other common lifestyle diseases. To learn more about disease prevention and reversal through a whole-plant based diet, you can visit the Sharan India website.
NL : Does a Vegan diet meet the nutrition needs of an individual?
NG : The nutrition needs of humans can all be met with plants, which are
- An abundant source of all essential nutrients required for the optimal functioning of people of all ages.
- Only source of fibre, essential for our digestive health and prevention of cholesterol build up.
- Provide clean protein, which is not loaded with animal fats and contaminants from animal products.
- The original source of healthy fats. Even the fish eat seaweed and sea plants to get their Omega 3s.
- Additionally, all minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients, so essential for our body’s cellular processes and prevention of cancer can all be found in plants.
A diet of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds is a complete diet. The only caveat is to test your Vit D and B12, which are being found deficient due to modern day lifestyles in people that eat plant and animal based diets alike. If your levels are low, please supplement with the advise of a doctor.
Vegans have been found to have the best health scorecards when compared to vegetarians or non-vegetarians! Many medical and alternative doctors are now prescribing this diet to reverse many common lifestyle related conditions.
NL : How does adopting a Vegan diet help the planet?
NG : A plant-based diet helps you contribute to the Earth as plant foods are much less resource intensive than animal products. For example, a cow eats 14 kilos of grain to produce 1 litre of milk and that same grain could have gone to feed many meals to humans. Also, 100 litres of water are used to produce 1 litre of milk , when you consider what a cow drinks and its cleanliness needs in a cowshed. Moreover, plant-based food connects us to our own values of living with compassion and kindness towards all beings.
NL : What challenges can one expect when starting on being Vegan?
NG : The only challenge I foresee in adopting a vegan or plant-based diet is a lack of ideas about preparing vegan food that is tasty and satisfies your old cravings. You would need to learn to substitute meat and dairy in your diet with plant-based alternatives. It takes a little time to learn how to do so but in the end it can sometimes be even easier than preparing your regular food.
In the beginning it appears difficult, especially when you eat out, but it is not rocket science. With a little practice, you can master the art of eating out too! There are many bloggers, books and websites that are constantly supporting people looking to adopt a plant-based diet. One that I recommend is www.veganricha.com who has an amazing collection of recipes and regularly blogs and sends new recipes to her readers.
For healthier, whole plant based alternatives, that will improve your and your family’s health, you can find recipes on Sharan India.
NL : You have recently co-authored a book on Vegan recipes. Do tell more about the’Guilt Free Vegan Cookbook’!
NG : ‘Guilt-free Vegan Cookbook’ is for urban Indians who enjoy restaurant style world cuisines like Italian, Mediterranean, Thai, American and of course Indian. We have presented simple and easy to make recipes using few ingredients. The book can be ordered on Amazon or FlipKart and for an author signed copy, write in to firstname.lastname@example.org. To peek inside the book, visit http://nandinigulati.com/guilt-free-vegan-cookbook/
So, hopefully that helps anyone looking at going the Vegan way. As for me, I am now excited about this journey!
To reach out to Nandini Gulati for personal health & wellness coaching, corporate wellness workshops and conscious eating and healthy cooking retreats, visit www.nandinigulati.com or email at email@example.com
Stay healthy & naturally lush! Do drop me a line if this has helped answer some questions around ‘Being Vegan’! 🙂