July 2015 By R Saravanan The compassionate vegan diet is capturing the imagination and hearts of people across the globe. Dr R Sarvanan starts a three-part series on how to transition to such a diet The vegan diet is becoming a new trend these days, gaining popularity among Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities, athletes, political icons, business tycoons, and New Age spiritual teachers. What is so special about a vegan diet and why do people choose this way of eating, even though it seems extreme? “The lower your diet is on the food chain, the more Earth friendly it is.”- John Robbins , Author and plant-based diet advocate A vegan diet is totally free from all animal products such as meat, fish, egg, dairy and honey. It includes only foods from plant sources, which Mother Earth bountifully provides. Veganism has its roots in ancient cultures. Concepts like jeeva karunya (compassion for life) and ahimsa (non violence) exist in Indian philosophy. Dr William Lambe, FRCP (1765-1848), was the first medical doctor to recommend a vegan diet for his patients. He could be considered the father of vegan nutrition. He started eating a vegan diet from the age of 41. The word vegan was coined by Donald Watson and his spouse, Dorothy Morgan. Donald Watson established the Vegan Society in Birmingham during 1944. The abundant health benefits of a vegan diet A healthy vegan diet comprises the following five food groups Whole grains Legumes Vegetables and greens Fruits Nuts and seeds A healthy vegan diet can provide high fibre, complex carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats and is rich in health-giving nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Research studies reveal that a healthy vegan diet can help prevent and reverse various lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and certain types of cancers. In the book, Rethink Food – 100 plus doctors can’t be wrong, 102 medical doctors and eight nutritionists from around the globe recommend vegan diet for healthy living! In a nutshell, a healthy vegan diet strengthens immunity, improves vitality and increases longevity. A plant-based diet is planet-friendly too! Besides offering abundant health benefits, a plant-based eating plan has also got enormous benefits for the environment. Livestock production contributes to adverse climatic changes and deforestation. Animal agriculture accounts for 70 per cent of global fresh water consumption, 38 per cent of the total land use and 19 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, a plant-based (vegan) diet is ecologically sustainable because of the following reasons: *Reduced carbon footprint and pollution *Reduced water footprint *Reduced soil degradation and deforestation *Conservation of environmental resources and biodiversity. Each individual’s food choice can have a greater impact on the environment! Kind and compassionate A vegan diet does not include any animal products and is a cruelty-free choice of food. By choosing a vegan diet we are not involved in the torturing or killing of sentient animals for food. A vegan diet and lifestyle is the best way to express our love, kindness and compassion for the animals who share this planet with us. It’s time to think and act consciously. Let our food choices be beneficial for our health, the environment and the animal world. Making the transition In order to make the transition easier, here are the plant-based alternatives for commonly used animal-based foods. Meat: Mushrooms, raw jack fruit Egg: Tofu, nutritional yeast Milk: Plant-based milk alternatives Curd/buttermilk: Curd and buttermilk made from plant-based milks Butter: Nut butters Ghee: Cashew paste Cheese and paneer: Vegan cheese and tofu Most people are able to drop most other animal products except milk and its derivatives. For many dropping dairy is the hardest part of the transition. The reason for this is that dairy products are addictive. But if we are willing to let go of milk and milk products we can explore many good alternatives, which are readily available these days. For those who prefer home-made alternatives to dairy products, here are some easy-to-follow recipes. Almond milk Ingredients: 12 whole almonds Water – 1 glassful Soak 12 almonds overnight in water. Next day drain the water and blend these soaked nuts in a blender with a glass of water. Almond milk is ready! If you want to add more flavour, blend two dates (deseeded) and a pinch of organic vanilla powder with this nut milk. Coconut milk Ingredients 1 cup grated coconut (matured) 1 cup water Blend the grated coconut with water in the blender. Strain the mixture and extract the coconut milk. Peanut milk Ingredients Whole peanuts- 1/2 cup Water – 1/2 cup Soak a cup of whole peanuts overnight in water. Drain the water and blend them in a blender with a cup of water. Strain this in a sieve or cloth to get peanut milk. Soy milk Ingredients Soy beans (preferably organic): 100g Water: 1 cup Soak the soy beans overnight, drain the water. Blend the beans with a cup of water in the blender. Using a sieve or cloth, strain the mixture to get soy milk. Boil this soy milk and use this as a milk alternative. Soy/peanut curd Ingredients Soy milk or peanut milk: 1 cup Starter (fermented rice drink): 3-4 tsp To make the starter: Take one handful of cooked brown/red rice in a bowl and add 100 ml water. Cover the bowl with a cotton cloth, and leave it overnight to ferment. The fermentation process may take 8 – 16 hours depending upon the weather and the fermented rice drink will be slightly sweet, sour and pleasant to taste. Separate the fermented liquid from the rice. Starting the curd Boil the soy milk or peanut milk in low heat. Allow it to cool for a while, till it reaches lukewarm temperature. Add 3-4 teaspoon of the starter (fermented rice drink) and then close the container with a cotton cloth. Leave it overnight. Vegan curd will be ready after fermentation. Vegan buttermilk can be prepared from this. A bowl of mouthwatering vegan cheese Creamy tofu cheese: Ingredients 1 litre homemade soy milk 2 lemons Heat the soy milk in a pan and when it starts bubbling, remove from heat. Add juice from 2 lemons to 100 ml water and mix this diluted lemon juice to the soy milk. Mix well and close the pan with a lid. Wait for 10-15 minutes. Soy milk will get curdled. Transfer the curdled milk to a cheese cloth or nut bag and gently squeeze out most of the liquid. Creamy tofu cheese is ready! Chill this for a firmer texture. Nut butter Ingredients Whole peanuts or almonds 100g Method: Dry roast the peanuts or almonds in slow flame till the skins crack. Put them in the grinder and grind to get nut butter. Add rock salt for taste.About the author : Dr. R. Saravanan, is a holistic health professional associated with the vegan nonprofit organisation, SHARAN. He is also the contributing author of the book “RETHINK FOOD – 100 plus doctors can’t bewrong”
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