A vegan salad spread
A vegan salad spread

Nikita Chawla clears the air about the myths and facts connected to veganism and explains why people are going ‘green’ for their living.

So, you’re vegan? Where do you get your protein from? What can I serve you other than nuts seeds and lentils? Are you sure your nutritional requirements get adequately covered? These are some of the common questions that come to mind whenever we talk about this group of health-conscious people.  This skinny gourmet cuisine has taken over the world with a storm and everyone seems to be joining the gluten-free, organic and vegan brigade. But what exactly does Vegan mean and most importantly why should you care anyway?

Read on as we bust 5 of the most common myths that shroud veganism and how you can survive as one if you are planning to convert anytime soon:

MYTH: Veganism is a fad

FACT: It is a lifestyle choice

Veganism is a not a fad, it is a lifestyle choice and just like any other diet, it requires commitment. Going vegan basically means to get rid of all animal products (red meat, chicken, seafood) as well as animal derived products from your diet (Milk, butter, paneer, desi ghee) and replacing them with pasta, tofu, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Says renowned Nutritionist and Dietician Dr Shikha Sharma, “Vegetarianism is not just a food choice, it is a philosophy. For those who care about the harm their meals cause living beings, perhaps veganism is the way to go.” Studies prove that Vegans are less prone to heart diseases; obesity related issues and even have lower risks of osteoporosis and prostate cancer. Veganism is not about going gluten free, completely organic or even 100% Raw and Vegans eat cooked and delectable food like the rest of us.

Green Pancakes
Green Pancakes

MYTH:A vegan diet makes you weak and malnourished

FACT:  An imbalanced diet, vegan or otherwise makes you weak

Veganism may be all about living more gently on this planet, however, this ethical school of thought is juxtaposed with the medicinal angle. Says Dr Usha Ganpati, Head of Department of Anesthesia, Safdarjung hospital who sees large proportions of patient’s day in and day out,

“The Vegan diet is incomplete and lacks key vitamins and vitals that the body needs in small quantities such as iodine, taurine and vitamin D. These need to be supplemented especially vitamin B12 which is the most common and does not naturally occur in plant proteins.” She also suggests we stick to a balanced diet, eat everything in moderation and indulge in our favourite foods occasionally just as our ancestors did. So, consult your nutritionist before making some radical life altering changes.

MYTH:  Vegans don’t get enough protein or calcium

FACT:  Some of the world’s top bodybuilders, sports players and athletes are vegan

Can you build muscle and do heavy weight lifting in the gym/ play competitive sports?

Won’t your body break down without the essential amino acids, calcium and protein only to lose out to the meat eaters? Says vegan fitness freak Heena Kataria, “Who says you can’t build muscle while on a Vegan diet? Just look at Serena Williams and Shahid Kapoor for proof!”

Leafy green vegetables have a higher absorbability than conventional milk and options such as soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk exist for those who can’t do without it.

Arvind Talwar, owner of the vegan HWealth café chips in, “There are plenty of protein sources in the vegan food chart such as lentils, whole food, soya, nuts and seeds and grains. These are substantial, complete and filling too.”

Vegan smoothies
Vegan smoothies

MYTH: Vegan food means boring diet food

FACT: They might just be having more fun than you think

Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to starve! Salads sprinkled with nuts, seeds and delectable toppings, coffee and smoothies made with alternate milk options and even French fries made with sweet potatoes are great starting points! With a little bit of insight and innovation, your vegan experiments can soon become your mainstream diet. Says Akanksha Rathi restaurant owner of the vegan Café- Cafe Shoonya, “Butter less Butter chicken, green pancakes and delectable pasta el dente are all part and parcel of the vegan diet”. In short, you can make pasta, lasagna and pizza out of whole grains and that counts as vegan too!

MYTH: Vegan food is only for the rich and not easily available

FACT: Everyday vegetarian food sans dairy qualifies as vegan

Locally sourced and freshly produced vegan food is more affordable and readily available than you think. Staples such as dals, rice, potatoes, grains etc. available in your local kirana store are cheaper than meat and dairy. Just do the math and you’ll see for yourself! A meat centered diet costs more than the legumes section in the supermarket and just like everything else food prepared at home is cheaper than dining out at a posh restaurant.

Take it from Dietician Priya Kapoor, “If you choose to go in for the organic only and hyper selective route of pay for it now pay for it later then it definitely is more expensive. Else it’s just like normal food. But yes! Nuts and seeds are a little expensive for the average consumer.”

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