The debate on which is healthier — vegetarian or non vegetarian — continues

Popularity of vegan food is here to stay. A cause that is endorsed by some doctors and gym instructors on medical and health grounds, has found another advocate in Anuradha Sawhney, former head of PETA (People for Ethical Treatment to Animals), who recently unveiled her book, ‘The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!’

The tome provides recipes by her as well as the who’s who of the film industry, fashion world, visual arts, music and dance.

From breakfast, starters, dips and spreads, salads, soups and stocks, rice and side dishes, vegetable dishes, the book has it all. Dilip Kumar’s recipe of peas and potato curry, Pooja Bedi’s Tofu delicacy, Vidya Balan’s Kerala khichdi, Hema Malini’s Drumstick sambhar and Bhupen Hazarika’s bamboo shoot vegetable are all there.

The book asks you to “avoid five white poisons – maida, white bread, white rice, white sugar, and milk.” It also attempts to explode “myths” that vegans are deficit in vitamin B12, they suffer from anaemia, calcium etc.

Anuradha, who turned vegan over a decade ago, says, “World population is increasing by leaps and bound, thousands of kilos of food go to an animal which is actually meant for people. Because of non vegetarians, we are producing animals by unnatural genetic ways. They are transported and slaughtered horribly.”

Dr. Esselstyn Caldwell, trained as a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, London, notes in the book that plant based nutrition provides us with a way to escape coronary artery diseases epidemic. “Even today the Popua Highlands, rural China, Central Africa and among the Tarahumara Indians of Northern Mexico, coronary artery diseases is virtually non-existent. These cultures thrive on plant based nutrition. However, when they are exposed to traditional Western diets of oils, meats, and dairy they promptly develop western illness such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes, obesity and hypertension.”

But Delhi-based orthopaedic and neuro-surgeon Dr. Nikhil Kumar says vegan food is not completely healthy. “Non -vegetarian food contains vitamin B12 and fat soluble vitamins, for instance, vitamins A and D which otherwise are found lacking in vegan food. Iron found in non-vegetarian food is easily digestible. Phosphatidylcholine is a brain nutrient that is found in fish and egg yolk.” Fish, he adds, contains omega 3 essential fats rich in EPA and are brain nutrients--not generally found in vegan food. It also contains omega 3 essential fat especially EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) which has anti -inflammatory properties are beneficial in ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel syndrome and macular degeneration of eye – a leading cause of blindness in elderly people.” He warns, “Out of 20 amino acids that are building blocks of protein, 9 are essential amino acids that are not produced in the body. They need to be outsourced from exogenous food. In this respect, non vegetarian is regarded as complete food whereas vegetarian food is regarded as incomplete food on account of their lacking in one or two essential amino acids.”

But Dr. Neil Barnard, health author and founder President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) says in the book, “It may surprise you to learn that diets high in animal protein can aggravate kidney problems and calcium losses.”

More In: Delhi | Health | Sci-Tech