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Why every Indian can love a plant-based diet

In the last decade, the world has seen a gradual shift towards conscious consumption as we adopt lifestyles that place less pressure on natural resources, the ecosystem, and the environment. People in the West have strongly taken to plant-based diets as a way to improve their personal health while reducing reliance on the meat and dairy industry, but these practices have been commonplace in India for generations.

 

A history of vegetarianism and dairy consumption

 

To better understand plant-based diets from an Indian perspective, let’s first look at our ancient eating habits and preferences. For generations, vegetarianism has been prominent in India but this has also included a high consumption of dairy. Aside from daily consumption, dairy products have played a cultural role as part of certain rituals or traditions, such as drinking ‘haldi ka doodh’ on your wedding night or having ‘thandai’ during the festival of Holi. So it is natural that dairy consumption has trickled down from generation to generation. 

Aerial view of Holi Thandai and organic colours made from plant-based, natural ingredients

 

In the earlier days, people understood the need and preference for dairy products in their lives so traditional, kinder farming methods such as hand milking were in practice. However, as the population grew, so did demand within the dairy industry, resulting in the need for harsher, crueler methods of milking cattle. 

 

The rise of conscious consumption, globally and locally

 

Today, it is no secret that livestock is subjected to forceful steroid injections, hormones to make them mature faster and bigger, and unknown antibiotics. These practices have ushered in an era of conscious consumers willing to give up meat and dairy products in order to reduce demand and the need for cruel treatment of animals.

 

Thankfully, the Indian diet has always been spoilt for choice when it comes to vegetarian delicacies, such as a variety of dals, parathas stuffed with finely chopped veggies, sarso ka saag, rice submerged in sambhar, and many more dishes that make our stomachs grumble and our mouths water.

 

In this blog, we are going to explore plant-based options in the Indian context, and learn how you can enjoy a clean, green journey towards an entirely plant-based lifestyle.

 

Plant-based alternatives to dairy and meat in India

Bag of Moong dal, a plant-based source of protein and other nutrients important for a balanced diet

 



1. A major concern and common myth surrounding plant-based diets is the lack of protein and other nutrients which we get from poultry but this is not true. Lentils or daals have proven to be high in protein and a strong alternative to chicken

 

For example, a single chicken breast contains 26gms of protein while 1.5 cups of Moong dal contains 27gms of protein, along with dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus, and manganese.

 

Packs of Goodmylk, a plant-based alternative to dairy milk easily available in Indian retail markets

 

2. In the Indian market, alternatives for dairy milk such as almond milk, oat milk, cashew milk, and soy milk are becoming readily available at your local organic stores and online, and offer comparable amounts of protein as traditional dairy milk. 


 

For example, soy milk contains nearly the same amount of protein (7gms) as cow’s milk (8gms) but with fewer calories! Plant-based milk is also packed with phytonutrients and is lactose-free.

 

Middle Eastern hummus preparation with chickpea and other plant-based foods and ingredients
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
3.Another concern people tend to have is regarding the availability and taste of ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based’ recipes in India, since the concept is predominantly popular in the West and usually features dishes that suit a different palate. Well, time to bust that myth too!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

As mentioned above, the Indian diet is primarily focused on vegetables, legumes, and grains. One can easily substitute the dairy counterparts of a dish with a plant-based product with barely any effect on the taste!

 

Indian Jeera rice and Channa masala made from chickpeas and plant-based ingredients

 

For example, your simple, healthy, and delicious menu for the day could be - 

 

  • Breakfast: Ragi dosa or Wheat Upma with Filter Coffee
  • Lunch: Okra Sambar with rice with a side of Channa Masala.
  • Tea time: Pav Bhaji with Chai and biscuits
  • Dinner: Roti, Aloo Matar, and Dal Tadka.
  • Dessert: Fruit-based cake with a steaming mug of Hot Chocolate
 
Rich Hot Chocolate made from plant-based alternatives to milk and dark belgian chocolate

 

If you live in India and are new to the idea of a plant-based lifestyle, these are some simple and effective tips to keep in mind during your delicious journey. Remember to try everything at your own pace in order to figure out what works best for you and your tastebuds. It may not happen overnight but you will gradually see yourself adapting to a plant-based diet, after which you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.