What’s common among Bill Clinton, Mike Tyson, Aamir Khan, Pamela Anderson and Maneka Gandhi?
They are all vegans – that is, besides saying “no” to meat, fish, and poultry, they have also decided to refrain from using animal products and by-products, including eggs, all kinds of dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, and wool.
And guess what! since “being influenced” is our other name, in no time, being a vegan had become a fad. However, there are people like Angelina Jolie who are anti-vegan.
The Hollywood actress in a press briefing had once said: “I joke that a big juicy steak is my beauty secret. But seriously, I love red meat. I was a vegan for a long time, and it nearly killed me. I found I was not getting enough nutrition.”
Now before you join the gang, here are 10 things you should keep in mind before taking the leap:
1. You will need to supplement your food with Vitamin B12 as you can’t access it via animal products.
For newcomers, Vitamin B12 is essential for the body as it maintains the health of our nerve and blood cells. Tiredness, weakness, constipation, anorexia, weight loss and depression are common symptoms of Vit B12 deficiency.
2. You might also need an iron supplement. The two main kinds of iron are heme (found in animal products and is easily absorbed by the body) and non-heme (found in vegan diets which the body does not absorb easily).
However, there is an array of iron-rich vegan sources, including various legumes, sunflower seeds, dried raisins and all kinds of dark, leafy greens. Also, add vegetables like red peppers and broccoli to your diet which are rich in Vitamin C, an essential for iron absorption.
3. There will be psychological pressures. Keep your answers, backed with logic, ready. Your family, especially your mother, will scream and shout and bring the house down if you say no to that mustard fish and sweet curd she so lovingly prepared for you.
She might feel something is seriously wrong with you and blame it on your friends for the “bad influence”. Quite ironically, your friends, in turn, will laugh at you for your “boring” food choices.
4. Before bidding goodbye to all animal protein sources, find an alternative(s).
According to the Institute of Medicine, we need 0.8-gram protein daily for every kilogram of body mass. Go for natural soy (limit intake), lentils and beans.
5. Make sure you don’t junk up in the name of turning vegan. Replacing meat with white bread and pasta is a very bad idea.
6. It’s not all about “one fine morning”. You don’t have to wake up one day and let go your mortal feelings for all animal products. Go slow and make the switch a gradual process.
7. Be ready for a happier you. According to a Nutrition Journal study, non-vegetarian diets contain more arachidonic acid that is responsible for depression and related mood changes. Be vegan and let the happy hormones take over.
8. Vegan diets don’t contain fat-soluble Vitamin A and Vitamin D. Vegetables like carrots contain carotene, but true Vitamin A is found only in animal sources like liver and egg yolks.
Similarly, natural Vitamin D3 is mainly found in egg yolks, cod liver oil and dairy products. Those voting for mushrooms – it contains Vitamin D2, which is hardly absorbed by the body.
9. Beware of fake foods. Let’s keep it simple – to make cheese, milk and meat, you need “real” sources.
In the name of veganism, how do you make the above? – with stabilizers, gums, thickeners, and highly-processed protein extracts.
An example: there is real butter and there is Earth Balance non-dairy butter which is made of olive oil, palm fruit oil, safflower oil, canola oil, flax oil, salt, natural flavor, sunflower lecithin, pea protein, lactic acid and annatto colour. Reality check!
10. If you increase plant-based diets beyond a limit, there will be a decrease of your digestive juices leading to weak digestion and lesser protein absorption capacity of your stomach.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.