Bharati Ramachandran

Food is fuel for our bodies. But how do we ensure, what we consume will nourish our physical and mental health?

Not everyone can afford a nutritionist, so how do we know that the kind of food we are fuelling ourselves with is helping our bodies? One such diet has had scientists and doctors intrigued – a ‘plant-based’ or the ‘healthy vegan diet’.

These diets consist of complete nutrition derived only from plant sources - vegetables, fruits, grains, pulses, lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds. They are rich in zinc, calcium, protein, iron, essential amino acids, and phytonutrients - important for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents in our bodies, building our immune system and metabolism to fight diseases and reducing exposure to toxins. They greatly help prevent cardiovascular diseases (CVD), high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and other lifestyle-driven diseases.

The World Health Organization says, “Households should select predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, pulses or legumes, and minimally processed starchy staple foods. The evidence that such diets will prevent or delay a significant proportion of non-communicable chronic diseases is consistent”.

The National Institute of Health-sponsored study (2018) revealed those who ate the most plant-based foods had a 16 percent lower risk of CVD, 32 percent lower risk of dying from CVD, and 25 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality.

In the last decade, a plant-based diet has become more accessible. Andrea Giancoli, a dietitian in California says, “plant-based proteins are far healthier than their meat counterparts. That’s because, pound-for-pound, they pack more nutrients into fewer calories. They also have one thing that animal proteins completely lack: fibre.”

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) too recognised vegan foods in a historic landmark decision and with a new logo (‘V’ with a plant on top, all in green) to help consumers recognise plant-based foods.

The evidence is undeniable. Plant-based diets are beneficial to human health, the environment, and non-human animals. While there’s decades of unlearning to do, we can have a universal impact, one bite at a time.

(The author is CEO , Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), India’s apex animal rights body. Views are personal.)