Veganism is a basically a way of living through which one can seek to exclude all forms of animal products such as milk, meat, eggs etc. so as to avoid animal exploitation and cruelty towards animals for food. For some people preventing the exploitation of animals is not the only reason for becoming vegan, but it remains a key factor in making the decision to go vegan and stay vegan. As per the belief of many people all living creatures have a right to life and freedom and in order to take a stand against animal cruelty, avoiding animal products is the best and most obvious way.
Vegan diet is not only for those people who have a passion for animal rights, but it is also for those who are looking towards a healthier lifestyle as it ensures a host of health benefits and prevents the risk of major health issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Well planned vegan diets are rich in proteins, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. Plant- based sources of these nutrients have low amount of saturated fats, are high in fibre and contain a significant amount of antioxidants.
A common misconception among those interested in being vegan is that they will have to say goodbye to their favourite dishes and meat items. Being vegan or following a vegan diet does not mean missing out on your favourite foods and living off salads. Meat-based dishes can be easily modified and still taste the same as you remember. In this way, you can eat healthy everyday and the best thing is that plant-based substitutes do not have negative health effects like other animal-based products.
Following are some meat replacement options:
- Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP):
TVP is a dehydrated high-protein; high-fibre meat replacement made out of soy flour and is great to use as a substitute for ground meat/keema and boneless meat chunks. It readily absorbs the flavours of the spices and sauces it’s cooked in.
Beans, lentils and peas are great protein-rich substitutes for meats, and are widely used in Indian cookery.
Tofu is a good substitute for most of the meats such as chicken, pork and beef. It is derived from soya beans and is full of protein. Tofu is extremely versatile in cooking and can be easily used as a replacement for meat items.
A vegan diet may help prevent certain health problems, but vegans also have nutritional concerns that are not similar to those with a balanced omnivorous diet. Several studies and nutritional experts don’t agree on whether vegan diet is healthier than balanced diet which includes meat and other animal products. This simply does not mean that being vegan is a bad choice, but it means that one needs to be aware of the disadvantages of being vegan and work to minimise them in order to enjoy a nutritionally sound diet.
I personally feel that one should consume both animal products as well as plant-based products in the diet since there is plenty of evidence in favour of this. There are certain nutrients (like Vitamin C) which are available only through plant-based food items and there are some which are available only through meat and animal products. Vegan diet is 100% plant-based vegetarian diet, which excludes all dairy products as they are derived from animal sources.
Animal proteins contain all essential amino acids in the right proportions and are importance for bone health and muscle mass. Those following a vegan diet do not get any animal protein, which can have a negative effect on their body. Vitamin B12 which is mainly important for the formation of blood and function of brain is found only in foods of animal origin. Deficiency of Vitamin B12 results in Megaloblastic Anaemia, which is seen in people who do not consume milk. Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) which is an active form of Omege-3 fatty acids is primarily found in animal products.
There might be people who have seen amazing health benefits after following a vegan diet, but it is important to keep in mind that you will find the same results even from a balanced omnivorous diet. There might also be people who have not seen any health benefits from a vegan. I personally feel that a vegan diet can have health benefits for most of the people, but only in the short term before any nutrient deficiency starts to occur.
Apart from following a certain type of diet, one should focus on consuming a balanced meal rich in all kinds of nutrients essential for our body. A balanced diet for one person depends on various factors such as age, gender, personal preference, present metabolic health and day-to-day activity levels. Keeping in mind these factors, a vegan diet maybe suitable for older people with low metabolism and lower activity levels whereas younger people with higher metabolism and high activity levels.
If you want to follow a vegan diet, you should make sure that you plan it properly. If you plan of following a vegan diet in the long term, you should consult a doctor to know about the necessary supplement you might have to take. You can also read books by doctors to know how to follow a vegan diet safely. If you are getting good result by following a vegan diet and are able to lead a healthy lifestyle, then that’s great.
“I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.” ― Leonardo Da Vinci