With the growing shift into a more health-conscious society, veganism is growing in popularity. I, myself, have been a vegan for the last sixteen years; nevertheless for me being a vegan is more a lifestyle than a diet. So much so, in fact, that I opened a bakery named Vegan Divas. Those who are vegan choose not to eat — or even wear — any form of animal product. This also includes anything derived from an animal such as dairy and honey.
Bravo to those who have taken the difficult steps to becoming a vegan, however, there has become a common misconception that being a vegan automatically makes you healthy. Oftentimes vegans who are kosher about not eating animal products or food end up eating tons of starch, oil, sugar, bad carbohydrates, such as white pastas and breads, sodium, GMO, as well as, processed and industrialized foods and “fake” meats.
According to several studies (as The China Study), a carnivore diet increases obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, along with their ensuing complications (e.g., behavioral health and quality-of-life problems). A diet full of processed and industrialized foods can be just as bad. Along with my vegan lifestyle, I also follow Naturopathy, a natural medicine that treats illness through a balanced diet as a system of treatment for disease that avoids drugs and surgery; it emphasizes the use of natural agents (as air, water, and clay) along with physical exercise. My diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole-wheat cereals, nuts and seeds (in less amounts); this can also be called the plant-based diet. According to the Naturopathy, if you eat a horto-frugivorous diet, your body will produce fewer toxins and have less risk of infections, thus reducing the need for antibiotics. Of course, the environment and lifestyle will influence your health as well, but a healthy diet is the baseline.
Being of the culinary world, I feel that I have the duty not just to supply fresh, clean, healthy and delicious food, but to also encourage people to learn about the food they are eating. I see many customers trying to label themselves as a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, etc., but before that, they should perhaps ask themselves these three basic questions: What is this food made of? Where does this vegetable come from? How was it made? Many companies claim their products as vegan, but they are loaded with processed sugar and margarine. What’s the point of consuming a vegan product if it is unhealthy? Some strictly vegans eat huge amount of processed fake meats and stock their pantries with fast and fried food such as tortillas and industrialized salsas. But they are proud to say that they are vegan and don’t hurt animals. I don’t hurt animals either but I don’t want to hurt myself eating junk and imitation food.
Our food habits say a lot about our culture and personality but will also influence our mood and ultimately become part of what we are. I find food to be a very emotional topic since it’s connected to our childhood memories — happy and difficult moments. Keeping a balanced, clean and sustainable diet, is the best way to keep the body healthy and the mind focused; it’s the best way to stay energized and happy. This is very well-explained in the studies of the Macrobiotic, where the yin (expansion) and the yang (contraction) poles are complementary and antagonistic; foods are determined as Yin and Yang and the balance between the two is paramount to the maintenance of good health. Following that line, we should eat preferably local vegetables and fruits in their peak season. Why should we eat sweet potatoes and radish all year round? The roots are yang foods that should be consumed in abundance during the Winter. There is a reason why certain vegetables and fruits grow, naturally, at designated times of the year. Of course, living a busy schedule makes it difficult to follow a strict diet 24/7 — and you should never feel “deprived” — but keeping a balanced diet connected to what nature is bringing to us is a great recipe for a healthy living.