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Vegan or carnivore diet: what works for healthy sustainable living? – YourStory

8 minutes, 41 seconds Read

Over a decade ago, activist and entrepreneur Matthew Glover stumbled upon a scathing video that exposed the cruelties associated with the egg and dairy industries. Dumbfounded and helpless, Glover and his wife Jane Land decided they needed a resolution. Thus was born the idea of ‘Veganuary’ on their kitchen table in York–a month-long challenge where you eat only plant-based foods in January. 

It was inspired by Movember that involves no-shaving in November to raise awareness about men’s health issues.  

The idea behind Veganuary is to encourage the adoption of a healthier plate possibly beyond January. Many people participate in the movement to understand if eating vegan food would contribute to improved health, while others try it out to do their bit for animal welfare.

Several celebrities like singer-songwriter Billie Eilish have extended their support to Veganuary. Back home in India, public figures such as musician-actor Monica Dogra, mountaineer Prakriti Varshney, and actor Soundarya Sharma are vocal advocates of this annual challenge. 

The movement has also prompted a rise in restaurants offering vegan menus, helping diners understand this lifestyle better with healthier alternatives to meat. 

Until a few years ago, veganism was branded a lifestyle for the rich and famous. A paper titled Moralistic Stereotyping of Vegans highlights that those who follow vegan diets are often typecast as eccentric or half-crazed. However, much seems to have changed over time with veganism occupying space in the mainstream. 

A vegan diet is linked to better sleeping habits, improved digestive health, and clear skin | Image source: Shutterstock” align=”center” readability=”2.5″>

A vegan diet is linked to better sleeping habits, improved digestive health, and clear skin | Image source: Shutterstock

According to a report published in The Lancet in 2019, a shift towards plant-based diets is linked with a heavy reduction in greenhouse gases. As far as health benefits are concerned, vegan diet is linked to better sleeping habits, improved digestive health, and clear skin. 

A month of veganism 

Veganuary is not just another short-lived fad. Now in its 10th year, it has grown to be a global movement, with people across the world adopting a plant-based diet in January. 

In its debut year, 3,300 people signed up for it; the numbers have exponentially grown with more than 7 lakh people committing to the annual challenge in 2022. 

Veganism is catching up in India too. 

According to International Market Analysis Research and Consulting, the India vegan food market reached $1.32 billion in 2022. It is expected to reach $2.46 billion by 2028, at a growth rate of 10.9% during 2023-2028.

There has been a rise in vegan cafés and restaurants in the country in recent years–a far cry from a time when menus had only a handful of options for those perceived ‘eccentric’ diners. 

Bengaluru’s Carrots is claimed to be India’s first vegan café, which opened in 2013 (it shut down in 2021). GREENR Café, People of Tomorrow, and Bodhi Greens are some of the popular vegan cafés in the country. 

In Delhi, GREENR Café, which prides itself for its ‘plant-forward’ options, set up its first outlet in 2015 at Shahpur Jat. Currently, it has three outlets in Delhi-NCR, apart from outposts in Mumbai and Goa. 

The co-founders of this café, Nitin Dixit and Mohit Yadav, were ahead of the curve, offering healthy unprocessed food and drinks served through their outlets as well as packaged foods. 

“In the nine years that we have been around, we have seen veganism significantly grow year on year. People are looking for ways to address their food sensitivities and nutritional concerns,” says Dixit. 

In line with Glover’s philosophy, Dixit notes, “There is also an ethical aspect where a lot of people are becoming vegan because of concern for animal welfare.” He adds that climate change is also a significant driver for the vegan and plant-based lifestyle movement globally.

Bharwan Karela with Black Wheat Poori at Sukoon in Mumbai” align=”center” readability=”1″>vegan

Bharwan Karela with Black Wheat Poori at Sukoon in Mumbai

There’s a lot happening across restaurants in the country for Veganuary. 

Mumbai’s Sukoon restaurant has launched a menu comprising smoothie bowls and main courses including vegan paneer bhurji. The Bandra-based restaurant is using social media heavily to promote the delicious possibilities of vegan living. 

“It’s about making vegan options appealing and accessible. It’s a celebration of flavours for everyone,” says Tanvi Shah, Head Chef at Sukoon. 

Novotel Juhu Beach Mumbai is serving vegan specials such as vegan pav bhaji, quinoa-stuffed bell peppers, and creamy coconut curry with tofu. It is also hosting virtual cooking sessions and collaborating with local influencers to amplify the message of Veganuary. 

This month, Fig and Maple, in Delhi and Goa, has embraced the freshness of cape gooseberry and starfruit through an eight-item menu that celebrates the versatility of these ingredients. 

“These dishes not only showcase the culinary potential of plant-based ingredients but also demonstrate how seasonality can be an exciting avenue for exploring new flavours,” remarks Chef Radhika Khandelwal. 

Down south, Conrad Bengaluru has initiated a Veganuary festival with delicacies such as chongqing mushroom with cashew nut and sichuan oil, udon noodles with fresh asian green and garlic flakes, and satawari piste ka shorba. 

Trends in the space

With more and more people adopting veganism, the concept of meatless diet and plant-based meat (mock meat) has gained popularity. 

Chef Jerson Fernandes, Director of Culinary at Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach says, “In 2024, I believe plant-based alternatives to meat–especially innovative proteins like jackfruit and tempeh–are set to rise.”

However, Chef Khandelwal cautions that factory-manufactured mock meats may not be the ideal solution.

“I believe in promoting whole, natural plant-based foods that not only nourish our bodies but also contribute to a sustainable and compassionate food system,” she adds. 

Prasad Metrani, Culinary Director at Conrad Bengaluru stresses on the need for plant-based food options with clearer ingredient labelling and quality sourcing.

“As consumers become increasingly health-conscious, there is a growing demand for plant-based products that are less processed and more natural,” he says. 

Speaking of trends, Chef Fernandes points to another notable shift towards vegan comfort foods and desserts, highlighting an inventive twist in plant-based indulgence. Alongside these culinary trends, he believes, a significant focus will be on sustainable packaging and eco-friendly practices.

Veganism vs carnivore diet

Many nutritionists advocate the regular intake of plant-based foods– vegetables, fruit, and whole grains–for positive effects on health, including prevention of cancer and lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

While veganism has found favour for its health and environmental benefits, some harbour apprehensions about replacing dairy in one’s diet. Since dairy has long been a staple in traditional diets, cutting it out can be a significant adjustment for some. 

Chef Khandelwal stresses that it’s important to acknowledge that everyone’s journey towards a more plant-based lifestyle is unique. 

On the other hand, there’s been a growing love for carnivore diets that involve eliminating all plant foods and exclusively eating meat, fish, eggs, and small quantities of low-lactose dairy products.

Eshanka Wahi, culinary nutritionist and holistic wellness coach, says, “This diet can help with weight loss, improved mental clarity, and increased energy.”

However, she adds a note of caution, “It’s crucial to note that scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited, and potential risks, such as nutrient deficiencies and long-term health consequences, need consideration.” 

A carnivore diet involves eliminating all plant foods and exclusively eating meat, fish, eggs, and small quantities of low-lactose dairy products | Image source: Shutterstock ” align=”center” readability=”3″>veganism

A carnivore diet involves eliminating all plant foods and exclusively eating meat, fish, eggs, and small quantities of low-lactose dairy products | Image source: Shutterstock

While there are several studies that encourage people to turn vegetarian or vegan, there isn’t necessarily a foolproof way to healthy eating, believes nutritionist, weight management consultant, and author Kavita Devgan.

“The answer is not that clear-cut. I believe that it’s not the way of eating but how that way of eating is followed that determines how healthy our plate is. Both strict vegetarians/vegans and non-vegetarians can be super unhealthy eaters,” explains Devgan. 

Anahita Karwal, a 32-year-old Mumbai-based call centre executive, was struggling with several health challenges owing to her erratic work schedule, lack of adequate sleep, and her tendency to skip meals

On the insistence of a friend, she adopted a vegan lifestyle. While it worked well for her in the beginning, it proved to be a costly affair—both for her nutrition and finances. Over time, she developed some nutritional deficiencies that led to other health challenges such as hair loss, brittle nails, and gastritis. 

It is important for vegans to get adequate amounts of vitamin B12, creatine, carnosine, long chain Omega-3, iron, vitamin K2 and zinc, points out Devgan. 

One could address this by having fortified foods or supplements to get nutrients that are otherwise difficult to get through a vegan diet. 

“Being a vegan needs a lot of thought and effort, investment, and, of course, easy access to good quality produce.  I believe that while veganism is a good way to eat and live, it is important to understand its ethos right. 

“It does not ‘just’ mean excluding certain foods. In fact, it is more about ensuring that you eat enough of the right foods to make sure that all dietary requirements are met adequately,” Devgan elaborates. 

And for those who follow an exclusive carnivore diet, concerns include potential deficiencies of nutrients due to the lack of plant foods, such as fibre and diverse phytonutrients. 

Pritha Gurwar, a 41-year-old homemaker gained a lot of weight due to a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits. After learning about the carnivore diet, she began following it and lost nine kilos in just three months. 

This transformation motivated her to continue this lifestyle—but her digestive issues thwarted her plan. She experienced belching, bloating and acidity, and she eventually gave up this diet. 

Ultimately, what diet you choose depends on your individual preferences, cultural factors, health goals, and ethical considerations. There is no reason to feel smug about it or look down on choices that don’t match yours. 

“It’s not about declaring one superior to the other. A balanced approach is often key. Incorporating a variety of foods from both plant and animal sources can provide a diverse range of nutrients supporting overall well-being,” says Wahi. 

As they say, you are what you eat. So, eat what works best for you!

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