Updated: Jan 9
Veganism has been the fastest picking change globally. TBH, there's much more to it than non-vegetarians getting offended to reconsider their food choices. While most situations have two sides like flipping a coin here there's a sphere which has no sides. Some advocate Veganism as a business propaganda, some call it a trend, some may state it to be a gimmick. What I have learnt out of following a cruelty-free lifestyle for 2 years now is that, there are a lot of misbeliefs floating around pertaining Veganism.
But before you question where do I get protein, vitamins and all other nutrients from if I'm eating plant-based, the answer is in the very question itself - PLANTS! To make this easy for you guys I thought I could bring a list of misbeliefs that come sticking around with my Vegan Life:
1. Vegan or Vegetarian they're both the same.
NO! To put this in simple words, a Vegan does not consume the following: Milk or any dairy based products, animal or bird meat, seafood and everything that comes from another animal. While food is one part of the list, Veganism is not only a diet unlike being Vegetarian, it’s a lifestyle. Vegans would choose to eat no food derived from animals for compassion, they also believe no other animal products should used to avoid causing any harm to all sentient beings. These would be leather, ivory, natural fibres like silk, wool and more. I'll emphasis on this point yet again, "A Vegan diet is dairy-free & meat-free".
In my perspective veganism is a conscious choice to live a cruelty free life that strikes a balance of 3 - mind, body and the surroundings. Why I intertwine a connection of 3 of these spheres has a simple answer. I'm going to get my own theory here, to which I'm sure a lot of my Vegan friends would agree. Giving a conscious thought about my food choices my mind feels at peace by omitting animal products, not just that but this step of feeling animal-compassion has made me reflect upon my material needs in my life too, being a shopoholic in past, I now stick to buying things only as per necessity and I value them more than before (these are both also pocket-friendly ways to practice). Over the years that I started to become a good observer to my own body, I gradually realised how it silently suffered from multiple health issues. My body projected symptoms consuming dairy that I was made to ignore through years as most individuals including doctors considered them as menial problems (I have loads to share about this through my experience, let me know if you'd like me to write about it). I could only catch hold of the malefactors when I keenly looked out for the pattern of my suffering - dairy was the first culprit I caught. As I learnt about my own body, I could come down to making peace with my mind and give my energy towards living harmoniously with my surroundings in which ever environment I was.
2. Veganism is a privilege, luxury, a trend that's going away soon.
The first thing I get told by my friends and most people I meet is that they can't afford to get alternatives to dairy milk and meat. Almond mylk is not the only substitute guys - I clearly understand your concerns regarding tight monthly grocery budgets but, in this 21st century big wild world, there's a variety of non-dairy mylk you and I can choose from. I'll make it easy for you - Peanut mylk, Coconut mylk (already used very widely in Thai cuisine), Oat mylk, Rice mylk, Soy mylk, Cashew mylk, Pistachio mylk, Hemp mylk. What's fun is, all of these could be prepared in your own kitchen with a just a little effort. Checkout this video from my Youtube Channel to start making Oat Mylk at the comfort of your home :D Coming onto the meat that you think is friendlier for your pocket, let's leave this on restaurant menus to compare which among vegetarian and non-vegetarian items is costlier. Or if you're a regular with grocery shopping you'll know the prices of vegetables right. Practically, most Indian dishes could be plant-based if dairy is eliminated. So if healthier food is luxury for you, well then I'm living a luxurious life.
3. BUT WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN? I need meat/paneer to gain muscles!
This question bags the first prize to be the most asked every time there's a conversation regarding a vegan diet. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often much protein. Let me ask you where do you think animals get their protein from? Let me know in the comment section :D Protein is made up of amino acids, often described as its building blocks. We actually have a biological requirement for amino acids, not protein directly. Humans cannot make nine of the twenty common amino acids which are considered to be essential. In other words, we need all nine of these amino acids from our diet for our body to make protein.
So what to produces these building blocks?
Choose your seeds from - Sesame, Flax, Sunflower, Pumpkin, Chia, Hemp, Watermelon; these are all a rich source of proteins, varied vitamins, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium, antioxidants, essential amino acids and much more.
I usually add these whole or crushed in my sandwiches, smoothies, fruit juices, spreads, on top of a bread slice with peanut butter or simply a generous tablespoon in between meals and trust me, they keep me full.
Choose your nuts from - Peanuts, Almonds, Pistachios, Walnuts; any that you get your hands on. I’ve personally noticed the benefits of having 1 or 2 whole walnuts every morning, it even helps my skin feel hydrated. Another morning practice that comes from my mother is having 5 overnight-soaked almonds with skins peeled.
Green friends - It’s not just nuts and seeds but a wide variety of vegetables too that contain the gold that you’re digging for - most of the dark leafy vegetables, peas, tomatoes, yellow sweet corn [one of my favourite source is] , broccoli [unlike most kids it has always been among my favourites!], mushrooms, cauliflower, green beans (or french beans as they're also called) and many more. While vegetables contain protein they are also densely packed of multiple nutrients.
Maa ki Dal - Lentils, come on! We all know and our mothers always nag disagreeing with the decision to take protein supplements to gain those muscles. Beans and lentils are the cheapest source of protein out there.
The plant-based paneer - tofu, tempeh, seitan. I say anything that meat could do in a dish, these 3 could do them way better minus the cruelty!
Choose your grains - wheat, barley, rye, brown rice and corn, that we consume on an everyday basis, all contain decent amounts of protein. But if you too are gluten intolerant like me, look for corn, rice, and pseudograins - foods that are cooked and served like grains due to their grain-like characteristics but are technically seeds, including quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millets...
My list could potentially go on longer but, I would rest it hoping this raised your curiosity to find more plant-based protein options. The same goes for Calcium (that we are taught only cow's milk is rich in) which is easily found in a variety of plants, do your research to find out the best natural sources of any nutrient.
4. Vegans are deficient of VitaminB-12.
Let's get this straight - a person following any type of diet could be deficient of Vitamin B12. This vitamin is water-soluble and is naturally present in some foods, added to others (fortified), and available as a dietary supplement & a prescribed medication. What's known so far as per studies is luckily, vitamin B12 is made by bacteria and doesn’t need to be obtained from animal products. Which means both animals and humans, must obtain it directly or indirectly from a certain type of bacteria. While you know this now (great if you already knew it), I'm going to tell you that the absorption of this complex vitamin is linked to two other important nutrient levels in our bodies that are Vitamin D3 the 'sunshine vitamin' & Homocysteine which is a type of amino acid. So an imbalance in one of them 3 could directly affect the other 2 - or I could say an imbalance in the other 2 could directly affect Vitamin B-12 levels. Coming to the next point, there is a range of B-12 fortified products available in the market these days. It is also said that fermentation adds B-12 to plant-based foods. So fermented soy products, tempeh, miso, kimchi, fresh homemade pickles are all examples of foods sometimes made with the lactic acid bacteria that can produce vitamin B-12.
What's most important to consider is, even taking supplements to have sufficient vitamins is not at all wrong and needing them does not deny the existence of the ethical argument for veganism, i.e. "Hunger can not weigh out the life of another living being"
5. But eating plant-based would never fill my stomach.
If you set out a wholesome and nourishing meal plan for the day, you're going to be fuller than ever without having to eat any meat and/or animal-based product. I have been eating plant-based for over 2 years now, have been brought up with healthy food habits - thanks to a health-conscious mother. Yet I see, I have consciously invited healthier options into my routine even more than before. Even sticking to Paleo restrictions being Vegan, a lot of fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables are now a part of my diet which wasn't the case 4 year ago. With feeling full after every meal, I noticed I no more struggled with heaviness that dairy and meat once gave to my stomach.
6. Brands calling it ethical leather.
Before I get onto this, let me point out that Dairy, Meat and Leather Industries are interdependent. The unwanted of one gets passed on to the next and the cycle continues. Now imagine could businesses await natural deaths of animals to procure raw material? I would leave this question here for you to put on your thinking cap. So, the idea of whether or not to call leather products ethical rests in the answer to the above. Now comes the case of newly turned vegans and the question - how can I be a Vegan and still have a leather bag in my closet? (or any other animal-based goods) . We have all so far been in blindfolds for long enough and I am glad you chose to snap out and realise the truth. We all might own objects made from animals - clothing, artefacts, bags, accessories. No matter what the situation, it’s not okay to be shamed for the choice of continuing the usage of their old leather, silk. What must be understood if you care to discontinue eating animals, you wouldn't consciously choose to purchase animal products in future any more either. In such a case, you have two options - to give away the objects to someone in hard need or to use them till they last.
7. Veganism associates with 100% healthy eating.
But a vegan strictly eats a plant based diet isn’t that enough? [I’m gobbling on a bowl of soya sticks as I type this.] While I’ve consciously cut out most junk food off my meals in general, I do indulge into munchies sometimes. Too much Vegan pizzas, burgers, fried food, fatty delicacies would equally be unhealthy.
Somewhere down the line, together, we - animals & us humans, are all on this planet. Most importantly, we have just one planet (unless you bought your plot on Mars earlier XD). We all equally deserve the life of our choice. With that said do we have any reason to deny the fact that no sentient being was made for the use of humans. There has been enough damage we have done so far exploiting every possible natural resource on the earth. Can we better our choices and save the only resources we have to depend on? Just like every choice, Veganism is not perfect either and with my imperfect lifestyle choice - I am still trying to do my best. I would like to end with a proverb my friend told me once - "Your efforts may fail but, do not fail to make an effort."
Click here and learn to make your own Oat mylk at home!