Beware Of The Unhealthy Vegan Diet
A few months ago, I fell victim to the vegan wave created by the Netflix documentary The Game Changers. Overnight, I went from being a daily carnivore to, well, mostly vegan. By this, I mean, I quit all animal-based products except some dairy, primarily because of my love for dahi, and lack of good and affordable vegan cheese. Even with a daily dose of dairy, I started to feel the benefits of veganism within three weeks - bloating vanished, joint inflammation vanished, my workouts became more energetic, and I generally became less sluggish.
But then, once the initial rush of finding something new that improved my life wore off, I began to struggle with what I imagine most desi vegans struggle with: finding vegan dishes that taste good. Because let’s be honest. There’s no plant-based dish out there that can boast of being as delicious as butter chicken. And so, in trying to curb cravings for masala, and ghee laden meat dishes, I found myself tempted by vegetarian foods that had all the flavour that my taste buds wanted, but no nutrition that my body needed. At least a meat dish would give you animal protein - there’s something of value you get in a chicken gravy and rice dinner. But, samosa? That’s just trans fats, carbohydrates and empty calories that would propel you on a fast-paced ride to high cholesterol.
My insatiable need for zing in my food led me to an unacknowledged dark side of veganism: the UNHEALTHY vegan diet!
The North Indian diet is, in fact, rather conducive to veganism. We use a wide array of vegetables on a daily basis. We love our lentils and pulses (my mother can whip up 5 different chhola dishes, that taste nothing like each other). We encourage eating fruit and many of us grew up spending our evenings at the local juice shop. Dairy is the only plant-based food group that is used for most Indian vegetarian dishes, but it is easily replaceable or dispensable.
But, the bhaturas and pakodas beg the question - are all plant-based foods healthier than all animal-based foods? Let me put it this way: Is a portion of aloo puri necessarily healthier than roast chicken?
When I negotiated continuing eating dairy - more specifically, dahi - I researched a ton on the pros and cons of the same. Dahi has probiotics that are good for keeping gut microbiome balanced. It’s good for bone health, and skin health, including preventing wrinkles. It builds immunity, and helps in digestion. Heavy meat eaters will tell you that a serving of dahi with rogan josh can help prevent acidity later. The same can be said for dahi - it has many proven health benefits.
This leads us to the other side of the unhealthy vegan diet: malnutrition. A recent report revealed that malnutrition - specifically micronutrient deficiency - is a growing concern in the developed world, and veganism could have something to do with it.
The key then is to plan your meals well - eating clean, without depriving ourselves of important nutrients. Do you have any meal ideas?
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