Choosing To Be A Vegan – It’s Personal!

After my last post on meat ban, a reader wrote in saying that she’s a vegan and that she is not missing any nutrients because of that. She runs a vegan bakery and on exploring her blog I found some really ingenious ways to make vegan food enjoyable (banana rajgira pancakes anyone?). I tried out some of the wonderful recipes she has listed there and had a full fledged vegan cookout at home that evening. So thanks, dear reader.

Coincidentally in the same week Australian celeb chef Renae Smith of 2014 MasterChef fame was also in my city (Delhi) for a cook out (she specializes in vegan and vegetarian cooking) at Dusit Devarana. We got chatting and she shared that she had turned vegan only about a year back and was now spreading information and goodness about this way of life – as it has benefited her immensely. But she also added that while it worked for her, being a vegan needs a lot of thought and effort investment, and of course easy access to good quality produce too. So her advice was: before taking the leap make sure it fits in with your circumstance and situation.

Ditto my thoughts! I too 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 stuff to make sure that all dietary requirements are met adequately. As sometimes let’s be honest, it can be a stretch (a vegan excludes  a lot of produce – meat, seafood, eggs, dairy).

Protein thankfully is no longer a huge problem as judicious combinations can help one score all the essential amino acids, but some nutrients like vitamin B 12 (keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy), creatine (helps increase muscle mass and endurance), carnosine (this amino acid helps prevent a range of diseases like diabetes, cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinsons), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), iron (non-heme type that we get from veg sources is not that easily absorbed in the body) and vitamin K2 (helps transport calcium into our bones) can prove quite elusive, so one must make sure one gets them or their alternatives in somehow. There are ways of course, for example carnosine can be formed in the body from the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine, so it is important to eat foods rich in these. Apples, corn, mushrooms, bananas are rich in histidine, so is rye. For beta-alanine one can incorporate soy flour in daily diet. Similarly to ensure enough vitamin A one must include A rich foods in much larger quantities to score enough. So basically information is the key.

Secondly, one shouldn’t just wake up some morning and decide to turn magically vegan. It takes work, effort and understanding. And please don’t fall in the trap of excluding animal produce and replacing it pronto with junk or way too much soya. Keep the balance of foods right at all times.

Finally, I am sharing a wonderful vegan recipe that I learnt from Renae, which I am sure everyone including the non vegans too will enjoy immensely. I did!

Vegan Apple & Strawberry Cider Crumble

Heat oven to 180c.

Peel 4-5 apples and chop into chunks (around 3-4cm). Pour 100 gm castor sugar over the apples and cover them with 1/2 bottle of cider. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Apples should just soften but still have a slight crunch.

Meanwhile, make the crumble: place 50 gm oats, 50 gm shredded coconut, 100 gm brown sugar, 100 gm flour and 1 tsp cinnamon in a bowl and rub 100 gm butter through with your fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs and holds together when pressed.

Drain the apples (drink the left over cider) and put them in an oven-proof dish.  Sprinkle over 1 cup frozen berries (any). Cover the apples and berries with the crumble topping. Put the crumble in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She will be contributing to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan
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