Does anyone remember that awkward scene around the dinner table from the 1999 movie ‘Notting Hill’ where this pigtailed girl who Hugh Grant’s character William Thacker is set up with introduces herself as a Fruitarian?
Keziah : No thanks, I’m a fruitarian.
Max : I didn’t realize that.
William : And, ahm: what exactly is a fruitarian?
Keziah : We believe that fruits and vegetables have feelings, so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have already fallen off a tree or bush – that are, in fact, dead already.
William : Oh, all right. Interesting stuff. So, these carrots…
Keziah : Have been murdered, yes.
William : Murdered? Poor carrots. How beastly!
People were labeled kooky and weird if they didn’t eat like everyone else. Not anymore.
Plant-based/vegan is finally getting its time under the sun. Much like “mindful eating” I see it getting thrown around a lot and eliciting some eye rolls. Personally though, I am loving my Insta feed with all the colourful, clean eating foods, Buddha bowls, rainbow bowls, smoothie bowls. I love the term clean-eating because it’s a health-focused way of eating that does not feel restrictive. Plant-based to me is a simple, uncomplicated, healthy-eating guideline without the restriction, much like Michael Pollan’s advice: eat food, not too much, mostly plants (still one of my favorite books). Unprocessed, fresh, wholesome, tasty and very very healthy.
These days though, it seems like everyone is adopting a new diet! Plant based, Keto, Atkins, Gluten free, Protein shakes, Diet Pills, Paleo, No Carbs, Fat-free…it’s hard to keep up! But I’ve personally focused on more and more people eating plant based diets. Oprah is currently doing a one-meal a day plant based challenge, even Beyonce announced that she would be eating plant based to slim down for Coachella!
I was born into a south-Indian-vegetarian-food-eating family so following a vegan diet has never been all that difficult for me as long as I can swear off dairy products. And I fully empathise with those that need to give up meat that they’ve grown up savouring – I haven’t had to give up any foods I absolutely loved. I am now married to a North-Indian-vegetarian-food-eating husband who loves his dairy. His idea of vegetarian though is limited to potato, dals, rice, rotis and lots of milk and curd. The only fruit he loves is the mango.
So it’s been a task to get him to eat a variety of fruits and veggies. It helps though that I’ve always loved fruits and veggies. I should give full credit to my late mother for infusing a love for plant-based even before the world was familiar with the term vegan. She always stressed on what each food is good for health-wise like carrots for good eyesight, spinach for strength and so on and I guess it stuck. Before we even knew who Steve Jobs was or how he ate, my mom would peel a huge jackfruit or chop a gigantic watermelon and we’d just be eating that whole fruit as a family on that day, nothing else. Sometimes it would be a big basket of grapes. Other times it would be a fresh harvest of groundnuts or corn on the cob we’d roast or boil. No one complained.
Confession : My husband drinks a lot of milk with his endless cups of tea and loves butter with his toast and I on the other hand cannot resist cheese and love ghee with my rice and dal.
We’ve tried using substitutes and going off some of our favourite dairy products and felt like we were ascetics while everyone else gorged on. So what I’m trying to say is that we are not militant about being vegan. If we craved for something, it’s ok to eat it that one time. We won’t stock it at home so it’s quite an effort to go get a slab of butter or cheese. Or if we went out and there was all this food laid out, cooked in ghee and desserts made out of milk and cream, It’s ok to have a bite and not feel guilty. But the important thing is to eat plant-based mostly if not always.
I do ask a lot more questions when ordering at restaurants, and a whole lot of label reading …and that’s because it made a huge difference to how I feel. Yes, I saw huge changes when I first removed dairy from my diet. Its like my taste buds were reawakened and amplified and everything I ate tasted amazing. When I started out I thought what I was doing would make a difference in the environment, reduce animal cruelty and help me avoid future health problems. I was in for a surprise.
Eating plant based has been a pleasant surprise. Although I didn’t expect to see or feel any physical results, I feel awesome and I look good too – if I do say so myself! And while I can’t say that I’ll never eat dairy again, I know that I will be more mindful of how I feel after eating every meal so I know how my food is affecting me. As long as I keep feeling this good while following this diet, I don’t see a reason to eat dairy everyday!
I’ll admit that I sometimes have these sudden urges – predicated by cheddar cheese cravings and actual dreams about pizza (in case you hadn’t guessed, cheese and I had a special relationship).
Ethical and environmental benefits aside, there are endless studies that document the myriad health benefits reaped by vegans, including lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and protecting you against diabetes.
My digestion is great
Studies show that vegans benefit from good gut health thanks to an increase in fibre intake. This can subsequently lead to lower levels of inflammation and elevated digestive health. This is definitely something I’ve noticed. My morning sneezing, allergies and skin flare ups have just vanished and I can see my skin ‘glow’. Despite eating no more or less than I was before in terms of calories, I find that I digest almost every meal I’ve consumed within the hour – regardless of how quickly or greedily I might’ve eaten it. Plus, on the odd occasion when I do eat a little more than I probably should, I feel back to normal in no time. Whereas a heavy meal the night before would’ve once left me rising the next day with a heavy stomach plagued by pangs of self-loathing, now, it’s like it never happened.
Also, I’m hardly ever bloated.
I have more energy
I feel more energised than I ever did in my cheese-feasting days. For example, I no longer get that afternoon slump and most mornings I wake up before my alarm and also have no trouble falling asleep on time at night.
Menu planning and meal prep is essential
Veggies dipped in hummus seems like a quick and easy snack, but it takes a lot of planning. Soaking the chickpeas overnight, cooking chickpeas, roasting sesame seeds for the tahini to mix with the final hummus – it’s hardly instant. I find that I have to plan and prep to avoid spending an hour or two in the kitchen every day or making the wrong food choices. Plant-based meals take time to, well, prep the plants, which often means shopping for fresh produce, washing, chopping, blanching, baking roasting, etc. It’s taken a little adjusting because I like to make and eat all my meals freshly made and not store prepared meals in the refrigerator. But how you feel after makes it totally worth the time and effort.
I’m willing to try new things
How are we supposed to know what makes us feel our best unless we try new things? I’m also a firm believer that all bodies are different and people can thrive on different diets. I may be eating more vegetarian/plant-based meals, but I don’t have a strong opinion on what YOU should be eating. I am happy to share my journey and experience and I do believe that however you define your diet, eating more plants is almost always a good thing.