Singer Jessica Simpson recently turned vegan to impress boyfriend Eric Johnson. Jess has gone as far as hiring a chef to teach her how to whip up vegan delicacies. Should you turn vegan too? We asks the experts. Plus, vegan delicacies to rustle up in minutes.
For those who think that turning vegetarian is tough, get a load of this. Vegans turn things up a notch by not only going green, but also abstaining from anything derived from animal sources, in every sphere of their life.
That means a diet without milk and dairy products and a wardrobe without silk saris and leather shoes. Some vegans are so strict as to avoid using commercial toothpastes, which may have animal by-products.
While you may be wondering what's left on the table minus the paneer makhani and the lassi (cottage cheese, curd and butter are strict vegan no-nos), vegans worldwide are singing praises of their new, reformed lifestyle.
A trend that has taken the West by storm, has yet to pick up in India, where vegetarianism is a way of life for many.
And as more Hollywood A-listers influence fans into jumping on to the vegan bandwagon, dietitians are trying to figure out whether the vegan lifestyle is really beneficial.
The vegan lifestyle is about healthy living and being in harmony with nature, which also keeps heart disease and cancer at bay.
Richa Anand, chief dietician, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital says, "Vegans are definitely healthier as they are protected from all sorts of infections arising from contamination.
The oil spill in the sea won't affect them; Bird Flu isn't a threat to them. Vegetables are much healthier compared to meats.
The bad cholesterol from meat is also completely cut out. The vegan diet is more like a detox diet."
Fitness guru Deanne Panday agrees. "Vegans have glowing skin, lustrous hair and are at an advantage as they eat very healthy, low calorie food."
Sounds like an ideal way to beat the evils of a modern lifestyle? But then again, there are two sides to every story. Angelina Jolie shocked fans with recent claims that her vegan diet "nearly killed her."
The star confessed that her guilty pleasure is to eat red meat, and that when she restricted her diet to exclude animal products it negatively impacted her health.
Richa Anand, agrees, "In the West, there is no concept of dal and chapati.
They get most of their protein from meat. Take away the sauces, soups and meats from their diet, and they have very little left."
So is it easier to go vegan in India? "The main problem with veganism is that it is an extremely strict diet.
Vegans cannot eat anything derived from animals however remotely connected and hence lose out on good quality proteins, Vitamin B12 and other class-1 proteins that come from milk or meat.
Luckily, vegetarian food in India is better. What you lose out from meat and dairy, you can make up by eating the right pulses, soya and sprouts," she explains.
However, like Jolie, Richa, also has her reservations about veganism. "In India, most people are lacto-vegetarians.
They drink milk, consume a lot of dairy, and thus meet their nutritional needs. Vegans lose out to vegetarians in terms of the quality of the food they eat.
They are deficient in calcium and protein, most of which comes from dairy products.
People with low amounts of calcium or those suffering from osteoporosis, and especially growing children, should refrain from going vegan.
For those who want to avoid the ill effects of red meat, eat lean meat. Skimmed milk is also a better option than avoiding it completely." she says.
Deanne Panday adds, "Just eating greens is not necessarily a healthier choice. You never know the quality of the vegetables in the markets these days.
Unlike in the West, the concept of organic food hasn't really taken root in India. If you are eating vegetables that are injected with chemicals, you'll be doing yourself more harm than good.
And even if the food is fresh, if you do not eat the right amounts, you are losing out on a balanced diet.
As long as you eat complex carbs, you should be all right. Also avoid overcooking the food, else all your nutrients are lost."
In terms of fitness, there's no holding back vegans. "A vegan can do just about any physical activity that a non-vegetarian can.
They have a lot of energy, as they eat low calorie, but energy dense food.
This also keeps them naturally slim. True, they may lack proteins, which are needed for wear and tear of muscles, but that can always be taken care of with a protein shake.
They might also be anaemic and may need additional omega-3 supplements and a multivitamin daily," says Deanne.
Fitness instructor Zareen Watson insists that it is very important that a vegan mixes and matches leafy veggies with sprouts, legumes, seeds and nuts.
"Vegans need to watch out when body-building and might need supplements because their diet is low in amino acids. I wouldn't recommend anorexic and extremely underweight people to go vegan," says Zareen.
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Salad of maple glazed Tofu and Rucola
Organic Rucola lettuce 200 gm
Almonds 30 gm
Pomello 01 segment, individual bulbs separated
Orange 01 number, peeled, segmented, de seeded
Silken tofu 160 gm
Maple vinaigrette 100 ml, recipe featured below
Maple syrup 15 ml
Salad oil 120 ml
Vinegar 40 ml
Maple syrup 20 ml
Ground mustard seeds To Taste
Salt To Taste
Milled black pepper To Taste
Take a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients, listed above, and whisk gently, to get a uniform emulsion.
For a mustard vinaigrette, beat in two teaspoons of good quality mustard to the vinegar before adding the oil.
For a tomato vinaigrette, add three teaspoons (or to taste) of tomato pur ©e to the vinegar, before adding the oil.
Recipes courtesy Joy Bhattacharya, executive chef, Trident, Nariman Point, Mumbai