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World Vegan Day: What you can and cannot eat to be a healthy vegan

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Basil Leaves and avocado on sliced brown bread
 
Every year ‘World Vegan Day’ is observed on November 1 with the purpose of encouraging more and more people to follow vegan diet and spreading awareness about veganism.
For many people, the key factor for turning vegan is to contribute in preventing the exploitation of animals, says The Vegan Society, which was founded in November 1944. They further say that some researchers have linked vegan diets with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Talking about how vegans contribute to protecting the environment, The Vegan Society says, ‘One of the most effective things an individual can do to lower their carbon footprint is to avoid all animal products.’
Does veganism actually have health benefits? What to eat and what not to eat while following a vegan diet? Can I turn vegan because my favourite celebrity is endorsing the same on social media?
On ‘World Vegan Day’ Mumbai-based Nutritionist Vinita Aran, Founder, ‘Eat Your Way to Good Health’ opens up to The CSR Journal answering our questions.

 

Vinita Aran, Founder Nutritionist, ‘Eat Your Way to Good Health’, Mumbai

What is vegan?

“Vegan means, besides non vegetarian products, you are also avoiding milk and milk products, the dairy. There are a lot of theories for non-veg that cattle are fed with hormones etc. which are not good for the human immune system. The same thing they say for dairy also. Since milk is produced commercially now, the cattle are injected with a lot of hormones which finally find their way into the human body, which disrupt our hormones. That is one of the reasons they say that you should avoid dairy as well. They feel you can lose weight, cure diabetes and generally improve your health if you go vegan, i.e., plant-based food,” Vinita told The CSR Journal.

Ensure adequate protein intake

“It is not very easy to get all your nutrients from vegan food unless you are conscious,” says Vinita. “Among the major nutrients are proteins, non-veg sources and milk, curd, paneer— these are very good sources of first class proteins. If you have to get it from vegan sources, then you have to consciously eat more seeds, soya, lentils, legumes which can also be good sources of protein for the vegan. But you have to be conscious about these facts, you can’t be just eating all types of normal food without laying emphasis on these healthy protein sources,” she warned.
Dairy products are an excellent source of protein

Foods to avoid

“Whether you are a vegan or not, eating sweets, fried food, junk food, are harmful for everybody,” the nutritionist reminded.

Vitamin B12

Besides protein, another important thing for our body is B12, which should be kept in mind while following vegan diet. “People who are vegans, they often have B12 deficiency, because it is found only in non-veg foods most of the time. For that, you need to take supplements. You need to have fortified food or take B12 supplements. Small amounts you can get from fermented food but not in any meaningful quantity. This is another source which you need to take care,” Vinita suggested.

Moderation is the key to good health

“I do get clients who say ‘I am following a vegan diet can you help me out in planning my diet’. I guide them on how to be a healthy vegan. However, I don’t always recommend this diet,” said Vinita.
“Sometimes I get people who are hardcore non vegetarians. For them, I would say, reduce your non-veg intake and have more plant-based food. But per say, I don’t say that you should turn vegan if you want to lose weight or control your diabetes. I don’t believe. I think moderation is the key to being healthy. If you are already a vegetarian, I would tell you to go with it. It’s okay being a vegetarian and having some amount of dairy also. That’s the easy way to get all your nutrients. You don’t have to go overboard with anything. Moderation is the key, as I said,” the nutritionist expressed.
“Plant-based also should be healthy. Just being a vegan does not make you healthy automatically. You have to be conscious and take help of a nutritionist to guide you on your path to be a healthy vegan,” she added.
A plate of vegan salad

Don’t ape vegan celebrities blindly

“Nowadays, people are just enamoured by what they see on Instagram. If a particular celebrity is following it, they try to follow it blindly. But all these celebrities have so many nutritionists and fitness instructors who are planning their diets, so that there is no deficiency of any sort. But when a common man tries to ape the celebrity, they don’t have anybody planning their diet.
A lot of times, they might end up with nutritional deficiencies if they don’t take guidance from a nutritionist. They might be eating all sorts of junk and at the same time avoiding dairy and eggs etc. whatever they might have been having earlier, in the pursuit of being vegan. That way, this can be detrimental for their health because they have randomly stopped having dairy products and eggs which were healthy,” Vinita warned.
“Turning vegan but not having the healthy alternatives in your diet can be harmful for your body. You need to include legumes, lentils, seeds, nuts and soya products in your diet if you want to be a healthy vegan. Don’t follow celebrities randomly without planning a healthy vegan diet by a nutritionist,” the Mumbai-based nutritionist reminded before signing off.