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Deccan Herald – 16 Nov, 2019

    DHNS, Bengaluru, NOV 15 2019, 18:55PM IST UPDATED: NOV 16 2019, 01:42AM IST

    Several vegetarians and non-vegetarians in Bengaluru have turned vegan. While many proudly campaign about the change, some are anxious about deficiencies caused by it.

    Anushree Kamath turned vegan five years ago and says the journey is satisfying, but has its own challenges.

    Susmitha Subbaraju (in white) hosts regular vegan workshops at Carrots Restaurant, Koramangala.
    Susmitha Subbaraju (in white) hosts regular vegan workshops at Carrots Restaurant, Koramangala.

    “From a non-vegetarian, I turned vegetarian first and then vegan. One of the challenges was missing the taste and texture of meat. The biggest challenge was convincing my family about this change and addressing their concerns about nutrition,” she says.

    One’s body takes time to adjust to any change in diet, especially for those getting their proteins from meat.

    Eating out is tricky for most vegans. “Being termed the odd one can be annoying. But turning a vegan in south India is not as difficult as elsewhere.

    Finding vegan food outside is not difficult at a vegetarian place: you can just order a ‘thali’ and avoid the ‘raita’ and ‘payasam’. I’m a Mangalorean and most of our foods come from greens and grains,” she says.

    Anushree, founder of startup Happy Calf, says turning a vegan now is not as difficult as it was earlier. “We provide dairy alternative products for curd, milk, buttermilk and cheese,” she says.

    Akanksha Senthil, IT professional, says the transition was easy in Bengaluru. “South Indian vegetarian dishes are dominated by pulses and greens but veganism is quite a hassle in the north, as dishes there use dairy products like cream, paneer and milk in plenty. Here one just needs to avoid curd rice and ghee in dosas and other foods,” she says.

    She adds that several websites and stores offer alternatives like soya milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and nut butter.

    “One needs to read the ingredients to follow the diet carefully. Often breads include milk powder, and items that one buys regularly for home also include dairy,” she adds.

    For balancing nutrition, she consumes fortified cereals, which help with the Vitamin B12 deficiency. “I consume chia seeds for deficiency of Omega 3-fatty acids,” she adds

    Health experts point out that a vegan diet comes with its own nutritional challenges.

    Dr Soumita Biswas, chief nutritionist, Aster RV Hospital, says the vegan lifestyle has become popular after celebrities like Virat Kohli began following it.

    “The diet is being followed for ethical and health reasons by many. Such a diet is low in Vitamin B 12 and one must consume more fortified cereals or supplements,” she says. She recommends fortified atta.

    A vegan diet reduces risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and obesity, she says.

    Pavithra N Raj, Chief dietician-nutrition, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur, says a vegan diet is similar to a vegetarian diet but without the dairy.

    “Certain nutrients like calcium and Vitamin B 12 can be lacking. Vegans must have more green leafy vegetables for iron deficiency, and consume more lentils, dals and nuts for protein,” she says.

    She also recommends ragi, green leafy vegetables, poppy seeds and drumstick leaves for calcium, and soya, tofu and bread with yeast for Vitamin B12.

    Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, chief clinical dietician of Apollo Hospitals, says a vegan diet is often not a balanced diet.

    “Lack of Vitamin B 12 is not the only risk. Most of us don’t get Vitamin B 12 through our diets unless we are consuming a lot of non-vegetarian food and microgreens. A lot of proteins are compromised in a vegan diet and pro-biotics are missing. One could be consuming a more energy-dense diet because more carbohydrates are consumed,” she says.

    The cholesterol intake in a vegan diet is also not optimal often. “A pure raw diet will not provide enough fat to the body. Not everyone consumes a lot of avocados.”

    What is veganism?

    According to The Vegan Society, “veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

    It states: One thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs, and honey – as well as avoiding animal-derived materials, products tested on animals and places that use animals for entertainment.

    ‘Bengalureans have an increasing interest in veganism’

    Susmitha Subbaraju, co-owner of Carrots Restaurant, Koramangala, says she hosts several workshops and hands-on classes regularly. “The last workshop we did was in October which was about dairy alternatives, where we discussed preparation recipes of nut and seeds milks, curds, and cheeses, which can be prepared at home,” she says.

    Seven- to 60-year-olds participate in the workshops, which clearly shows the increasing interest in veganism. “Even non-vegans attend to learn new recipes and try out new things.”

    Susmitha feels that being a vegan is not a challenge. Making people understand what veganism is and creating awareness of the variety is the difficult part, she adds.

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