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To Be Vegan Or Not

Understanding the vegan regime with nutritionist Luke Coutinho

To Be Vegan Or Not
To Be Vegan Or Not
outlookindia.com
2019-01-18T13:36:18+0530

Do you think veganism is just a fad or does it have a much deeper philosophy?

While veganism has the intention of saving the environment and animals, frankly, it’s just another fad. Any diet that is not flexible in terms of food ­options and requires you to eliminate a certain food group forever is a fad. A good diet is flexible and dynamic in nature. It should allow you to eat ­according to your body’s needs and lifestyle.

Is veganism ­picking up fast?

It’s unfortunate that very few people follow veganism with the right intention. For most, it’s just about following others. Herd mentality is something this generation is into but for healthy living, one needs to personalise their lifestyle decisions.

What’s wrong with eating milk products?

Milk is not the problem; the quality of milk is. Most of us have grown up drinking milk and eating milk products. So, have our grandparents. It’s the quality of milk, its source and the way it is sourced that have changed. Today, milk is sourced in very ­unethical ways. Cows are pumped with growth hormones, antibiotics and fed corn and soy to fatten up. If you wish to drink milk, do it the ethical way, and respect nature.

Can extracting milk be ­considered cruelty to the cow?

There is a wrong and a right way of doing things. If you are depriving a calf of its mother’s milk out of sheer greed and impatience, that is certainly cruel.

Can a vegan do high-intensity exercises?

Kuntal Joisher is India’s first vegan mountaineer to scale Mt Everest. His performance, with his choice of lifestyle, has been a mindset breaker. People thought it was impossible to build that level of nutrition and fitness which is required for such a challenging environment. But to everyone’s surprise, he has climbed many mountains.

However, I would say that nutrit­ion is a fraction of what it takes to be successful. There are other vegan mountaineers too who did face challenges. Other qualities are needed apart from nut­rition: the right kind of training, recovery, mindset, willpower and determination.

Is it easy to be vegan in India?

It is easier to be a vegan in India because the consumption of non-vegetarian food is much lesser as compared to other countries.  However, India is one of the largest consumers of milk, so it may be a challenge for someone who has been eating dairy products throughout their life before ­turning vegan.

What are the deficiencies a vegan diet could lead to?

It is wrong to say that only veg­ans suffer from deficiencies. There are so many non-vegans who have critically low vitamin levels. Also, we see so many veg­ans with flawless blood rep­orts and parameters. However, if veganism is not followed properly, it can be detrimental to our health. Vegans can be deficient in Vitamin B12, protein, Iron and Omega 3 (DHA & EPA). Eggs and fish are some of the best sources of Omega 3, which is necessary for brain and heart health, as they reduce the risk of stroke and neurological disorders.

Do vegans need protein substitutes?

If you choose to go vegan, it’s important to carefully plan your nutrition. One cannot wake up one morning and decide to do it. Vegans can either be under-eating protein or overeating protein. Veganism requires you to eliminate all sources of meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Hence, a vegan diet should be designed in such a way that it makes sure one is eating adequate protein via lentils, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds. These are good quality proteins, which, when had in the right combination—like cereals and pulses—offer complete protein. Vegan diet has enough opt­ions to meet a person’s dietary needs, just that it needs to be planned and executed well.

In certain cases, vegans ass­ume that since they’re not consuming animal protein, they will be protein deficient, and in order to stock up on essential protein, they turn to protein powder. But consuming too much protein is not only unnecessary, but also dangerous. Our body can digest only 12-15g of protein fromg a meal. When you consume too much protein, it’s not digested well by your body and the extra protein piles up as fat, which leads to obesity.

What about athletes like Virat Kohli, who is said to be into ­extreme fitness, being vegans?

When you are an athlete, you can customise your fitness ­regime. Regular people working 9 to 5 jobs can’t be training like athletes. It’s detrimental for the health in the long run. Virat Kohli has an entire team looking after his nutrition and fitness and making sure his body isn’t falling short of any macro or micronutrient.

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