Going the vegan way!

Going the vegan way!

Jason Jacob

Vegetarianism and veganism is hardly about mere animal rights anymore. Living by this philosophy also has environmental, health and spiritual benefits.

Recent studies reveal that going vegetarian is 50 percent more effective in reducing green house gas emission than switching over to hybrid cars. “This is because livestock expel methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming,” clarifies Jason Jacob, an environmental campaigner.

With 205 million cattle in India, our country alone accounts for one sixth of the world’s total cattle population. This could signal an impending cause of concern. He continues, “On a macro level, pounds of meat are being flown around the world, and then transported to supermarkets in refrigerated trucks, just in order to reach our tables.
These are known as food-miles and they rack up carbon emission in its process.”

The water and grain to meat ratio is not sustainable either. It takes 15 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water to grow one pound of meat. A longer, less disease filled life, is also one of the promises that vegetarianism makes, Dr Prema from Varenya Nutrition Concepts, explains, “Meat eating gives us unwanted substances like cholesterol and fat. This makes us susceptible to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, gout, cancer and endocrine problems.”

Meat lovers fiercely contest the holistic nature of a vegetarian diet claiming that it doesn’t provide enough of proteins. “This is a myth,” says Prema. “A vegetarian diet, if combined with its various groups in the right proportions, can completely uphold our modern lives. It supplies micronutrients like beta carotene, flavonoids and Vitamin-K,” she adds.

She advises that we take cereals and pulses to compensate for the proteins. “Whey and legumes (lentils, beans) are a valuable and vegetarian source of protein,” says Bhavani, Chief Nutritionist at Fitness One. A vegetarian diet is also known to lower our blood pressure and hypertension and protect us from osteoporosis. It provides fibres that prevent constipation and spastic colon.

Is there a link between vegetarianism and increased fertility? You can bet on your kids that there is. Says Dr Prema, “Livestock and even fish are fed hormones in their diet.These hormones can cause sterility especially in men.”

In the food to energy conversion process, much energy is lost in the chain from plants to animals to humans.

   Non-vegetarians thus, are actually at a disadvantage with regards to energy levels.
“The animal proteins that a non-vegetarian diet gives us, are more complex to break up and liberate energy and much energy is lost in this operation,” says Bhavani.

Jain philosophy believes in Ahimsa by which they strive to not cause injury, death or violence either intentionally or indirectly to any living being. Susheel Sukhraj is a practising Jain and also a vegetarian. “When a human dies, we think of it as painful. When an animal dies, we think of it as food,” he muses. “We are always causing harm to living creatures. Thus we must ensure that at least our damage is minimal.”

Changing one’s diet sometimes even involves a lifestyle change. If this is too drastic, consider reducing one’s servings of meat, or dressing up meat servings with more vegetables. Further, one can supplement one’s diet with sprouts, and take at least half kilo vegetables and another half kilo of fruits daily.

Jason suggests a practical compromise and says, “At least consider buying locally reared animals instead of

imported and packed produce.”

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