Plant-based eating has gained traction in India as well as across the world in the last few years. Its increased popularity is due to the fact that it provides essential nutrients without any animal cruelty. Plant-based diets constitute two major lifestyle practices: vegetarianism and veganism. While both sound quite similar, in reality, they are distinct from each other. Usually, people mistake a vegetarian diet for a vegan diet, but truth be told, vegan is not a synonym for vegetarian. As opposed to vegetarianism, vegans follow a more restricted plant-based food consumption. Let’s dive deeper into both the concepts:
Jasmine Bharucha, Founder, Katharos Foods says that the term ‘vegetarianism’ refers to a broad range of eating habits with a focus on plant-based foods and a rejection of animal-based foods. “It encompasses a wide range of dietary habits and is frequently linked to plant-based lifestyles. Subsections of vegetarianism-centered food consumption practices are classified as:
Pescatarian: Under this category of vegetarianism, people consume fish and other sea foods but strictly avoid all types of meat. This practice is often referred to as semi-vegetarian
Lacto Ovo-vegetarian: Lacto Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products and avoid all types of meat and fish products
Lacto-vegetarian: People under this category do not eat meat, fish, or egg products, but they consume dairy products.
Ovo-vegetarian: Ovo-vegetarians consume plant-based foods and eggs but do not eat meat, fish, or dairy products.”
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Understanding Vegan lifestyle
“A vegan lifestyle is a philosophy and way of life that aims to forbid animal use for food or clothing while embracing all other non-animal dietary options. Generally, vegans consume cereals, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. A subset of those who live a vegan lifestyle only consume fresh, raw food. While vegetarians consume animal-derived foods such as cheese, eggs, honey, and milk, as long as no animals are harmed during the process, vegans eliminate the use of animal products completely. At the core, a vegan lifestyle involves consuming only plant-based foods,” Katharos Foods’ Jasmine Bharucha explained.
Benefits of a vegetarian diet
As per Jasmine Bharucha Vegetarian diets have numerous health advantages. “They usually help in maintaining high levels of dietary fiber, n-6 fatty acids, vitamins C, B9, and E, magnesium, potassium, carotenoids, plant sterols, and many other phytochemicals. It is also helpful in weight loss. Furthermore, vegetarian diets lower the risk of chronic diseases like obesity and cardiovascular disease as well as potential effects on cancer. This is mainly because of the higher intake of vegetables, grains, fruit, nuts, and fiber and a lower intake of saturated fats and cholesterol,” Bharucha added.
Multi-fold benefits of a vegan diet
According to Jasmine Bharucha, Founder of Katharos Foods, “The advantages of a vegan diet are virtually similar to those of a vegetarian diet. However, vegan diets typically contain greater levels of dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, iron, and phytochemicals. It is also helpful in boosting the consumption of preventive minerals and phytochemicals. Simultaneously, it limits the intake of dietary components involved in various chronic illnesses. Concerns over hormone-treated milk-producing animals like cows and buffalos are growing. This, in turn, raises the possibility of diseases and hormonal imbalances. Vegan alternatives like almond, soy, coconut, or other plant-based milk are unquestionably healthier.”
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Moreover, vegan food choices are ideal for lactose intolerant people. They have zero lactose and casein. While beneficial for lactose intolerance, a vegan diet is healthier and more nutritious. It also shows a strong effect on weight loss compared to a vegetarian diet.
The new scenario
With increased awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, more people are shifting toward vegan diets. It is viewed as an eco-friendly consumption practice that ensures optimum nutrient intake. A recent study by the Food Ethics Council revealed that 54 % of young consumers believe the food system is fundamentally unfair to animals, as well as the environment and workers in developing nations.
Gradually, startups and food manufacturers in India are working towards developing fast-growing innovations that support a rise in plant-based foods. This new generation of plant-based dairy, especially cheese, is getting increasingly competitive when it comes to providing essential nutrients and flavor. In the Indian market, plant-based products are gradually gaining popularity due to ethical and sustainable production methods.