The plant-based diet has gained prominence both in India and around the world in recent years. It owes its increasing popularity to the fact that it provides essential nutrients without any cruelty to animals. Plant-based diets represent two important lifestyle practices: vegetarianism and veganism. While both sound quite similar, in reality they are different from each other. Usually, people confuse a vegetarian diet with a vegan diet, but to be honest, vegan is not synonymous with vegetarian. Unlike vegetarianism, vegans follow a more restricted, plant-based diet. Let’s dive deeper into both concepts:
Jasmine Bharucha, Founder, Katharos Foods says the term “vegetarianism” encompasses a wide 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 often associated with a plant-based lifestyle. Subsections of vegetarianism-centric food consumption practices are classified as:
pescetarian: Under this category of vegetarianism, people consume fish and other seafood 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 in this category do not eat meat, fish, or egg products, but do consume dairy products.
Ovo vegetarian: Ovo-vegetarians consume plant-based foods and eggs, but do not eat meat, fish, or dairy.”
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Understand the vegan lifestyle
“A vegan lifestyle is a philosophy and way of life that aims to ban the use of animals for food or clothing while embracing all other non-animal diet options. In general, vegans consume grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. A subset of those who lead a vegan lifestyle consume only fresh, raw foods. While vegetarians consume animal-based foods such as cheese, eggs, honey, and milk, vegans refrain from using animal products entirely, as long as no animals are harmed in the process. At its core, a vegan lifestyle involves consuming only plant-based foods,” explained Katharos Foods’ Jasmine Bharucha.
Benefits of a vegetarian diet
According to Jasmine Bharucha, a vegetarian diet has numerous health benefits. “They usually help maintain high levels of fiber, n-6 fatty acids, vitamins C, B9, and E, magnesium, potassium, carotenoids, plant sterols, and many other phytochemicals. It is also helpful in losing weight. In addition, a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, as well as possible effects on cancer. This is mainly due to higher intakes of vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts and fiber and lower intakes of saturated fats and cholesterol,” Bharucha added.
Multiple benefits of a vegan diet
According to Jasmine Bharucha, founder of Katharos Foods, “The benefits of a vegan diet are practically similar to those of a vegetarian diet. However, vegan diets usually contain larger amounts of fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, iron and phytochemicals. It is also helpful for increasing the consumption of preventive minerals and phytochemicals. At the same time, it limits the intake of dietary components involved in various chronic diseases. Concerns about hormone-treated dairy animals such as cows and buffalo are growing. This, in turn, increases the possibility of disease and hormonal imbalances. Vegan alternatives like almond, soy, coconut or other plant-based milk are undoubtedly healthier.”
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In addition, vegan foods are ideal for people with lactose intolerance. They have zero lactose and casein. A vegan diet, while beneficial for those with lactose intolerance, is healthier and more nutritious. It also shows a strong effect on weight loss compared to a vegetarian diet.
The new scenario
With increasing awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, more and more people are switching to a vegan diet. It is considered an eco-friendly consumption practice that ensures optimal nutrient absorption. A recent study by the Food Ethics Council found that 54% of young consumers believe the food system is fundamentally unfair to animals, the environment and workers in developing countries.
One by one, start-ups and food manufacturers in India are working to develop fast-growing innovations that support a rise in plant-based foods. This new breed of plant-based dairy, particularly cheese, is becoming increasingly competitive when it comes to providing essential nutrients and flavor. In the Indian market, herbal products are gradually gaining popularity due to ethical and sustainable production methods.