It’s nearly coming up to a month now on my Vegan dietary experiment – and I have to say, this has been one of my easiest health fads. So much so, that I may even stick to it. I say fads, as this is the sort of thing I like to do from time to time. Well, with a juice fast in January and then routine weeks of raw-food diets interspersed throughout the year, friends often get confused as to what I’m eating from week to week. Plus, I also like to try a new thing to give up every Lent, purely out of curiosity, rather than camaraderie with Jesus. It gives one time to acknowledge what one can and can’t be without. Alcohol was tricky one-year, so I’m glad, that as a vegan, I can still include this as part of my lifestyle.
I was originally spurred on by various YouTube clips, some quite harmless, and others totally evangelical. The one that influenced me most was a 40-minute lecture from the Dr. Neal Barnard. In it, he suggested that everybody should attempt at least a three-week trial of veganism to see how it benefits them. It takes at least three weeks for the body to adjust to any long-lasting habits, after which, you can decide what you’d like to go back to. Veganism, is essentially conforming to a plant-based diet – of course you can include modern processed and cooked food – (albeit non-dairy) but nobody survived on beer and crisps alone, so the emphasis was always on keeping this as varied as possible, most importantly, keeping fruits and vegetables at the core.
The reason I wanted to bring this diet, and my experience of it, to light was because of its relative compatibility to the north Indian diet. Which as an NRI, I’m still partial to at the family home. This largely constitutes chapattis, rice and an array of daals and sabzees. Of course, there are restaurant indulgences and culinary experiments on the side, but these all comply the vegan rules. London’s restaurant scene has become more forgiving that way, with 42° Raw, Saf and Amico Bio being among some of my favourite places to dine.
When I first say to others that I’m a vegan now (or that I’m being a vegan at the moment). It tends to come as a shock, ‘Wow, that’s so extreme’ or ‘OMG, really, isn’t that a bit much?’ What they forget of course, that this is just as simple as being a vegetarian (which I’ve already been for 12 years) though to the next level, veggie 3.0 if you will. Parents and family also forget that with just a few simple tweaks, the Indian diet becomes instantly vegan. In this instance, I’ve made two simple changes. Replace butter with oil, and forego yoghurt. None of which have been that taxing on our kitchen or on my stomach. I have, however, had to build a resistance to carb-loading. In the absence of cheese and eggs (which most vegan-pro-activists will argue are high-cholesterol drugs) it’s been easy to over-rely on carbs, namely: chips, crisps, pasta and toast. Though I’m coming to terms with this by focusing on beans, lentils and a measured dosage of vitamin B12. I’m learning to wean myself off protein shakes with a steady supply of Quinoa. I haven’t as yet, started with the cross-examining the small-print on the back of everything, life is short and I draw the line at micro-traces of dairy, horse-jelly or egg. It’s more important that the bigger decisions I make are the right ones.
So, a question remains, why isn’t there a massive up take of veganism of cultures across the world (aside from the fact that most of the world loves Pizza?). In India, I began thinking about the holy cow. How it’s revered as one of Krishna’s creatures. Then I fell into a little catch. Is it revered because it’s the provider of free milk? Or do we use it for milk, as it’s a revered creature of Krishna’s? In either case, vegans theorise that humans are essentially herbivores and not carnivores. They’d suggest that our teeth are more similar to those of a giraffe or a monkey rather than a shark or a tiger. They’d also suggest that we only have one stomach, whereas dairy consuming large mammals – such as cows have four (helping them to ingest and produce milk). Why therefore, after infancy, would a human require the factory-processed produce of cows?
I’m not here to provide the answers or preach on these matters, merely question people’s attitudes to them, and perhaps qualm the general sense of shock and awe. Of course, globally, most people would consider themselves exceptionally lucky to have access to plentiful supplies of meat and dairy, whereas in others, veganism just occurs as the result of poverty.
What we should take away from this discussion, is not whether or not the chicken sandwich you’re about to have a lunchtime is right on the grounds of veganism, but more so it’s environmental and carbon impact. If the western world demands burgers all of the time, then we must consider the effect millions of cows and their slaughter will have on green-house gases. You can begin to think about he biological benefits after. We need to displace the shock away from the practice of being vegan to the consequences of mass-meat production. Whatever dietary choices you make after that is entirely up to you.
Photo credit: choosing raw.com