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The Joy Of A Plant-Based Diet

Whether you’re already a full-fledged vegan or giving it a thought, tune into this engaging session with a chef and nutrition expert to discover the art of plant-based baking and ways to make your diet more plant-forward.

By URLife Team
14 Oct 2021

The following is an excerpt from Health Hour with Chef Naimita Jagasia, internationally recognised plant-based pastry chef and Vinita Contractor, certified holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach. Watch the YouTube video for the full understanding as well as the question and answer session.

“If it all came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t,” said Michael Pollan, the author of New York Times Best Seller The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. A global shift to a plant-based diet is a win-win for both our health and the environment. A plant-based diet is more likely to reduce the risk of heart problems, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, gallstones and kidney disease, says a paper titled Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-based diets.

Chef Naimita Jagasia, and Vinita Contractor discuss various aspects of a plant-based diet —the nutritional side, health benefits and innovative ways to replace commonly used animal-based foods such as yoghurt, eggs, and butter. Read on..


Q. What is a plant-based diet?
Contractor: Eating foods directly produced by a plant is a plant-based diet. You avoid all the animal sources of foods such as dairy, meat, fish etc.


Q. What are the health benefits of a plant-based diet?
Contractor: There are several health benefits to a plant-based diet such as :

  1. Higher energy levels
  2. Improvement in lifestyle disorders such as diabetes, blood pressure, hypertension, cholesterol, and obesity.
  3. Faster recovery for people into sports.
  4. Sustainable weight management


Q. Is honey vegan?
Contractor: No, it is not, since it is a bee-product.
Jagasia: It is a good idea to replace honey with maple syrup or date syrup.


Q. What is the major advantage of plant-based baking over mainstream baking?
Jagasia: Vegan baking offers many nutritious and tasty substitutes for eggs and butter. You get to substitute cholesterol-rich eggs with nut butter, flax seeds, and other ingredients that can mimic their essential physical properties such as moistening, flavouring and binding. Also, vegan baking appeals to your inner food scientist as you try and devise clever ingredient combos and baking techniques to work around the challenges.


Q. What are some rich sources of protein in a vegan diet?
Jagasia & Contractor: A plant-based diet offers a diversity of protein-rich food options

  1. Nut butters like almond butter, cashew butter and coconut butter are a powerhouse of proteins. Each of these butters bring a unique flavour and give you a creamy texture, healthy fats and healthy carbs.
  2. Flax seeds are a good replacement for fish oil. It is both a rich source of protein and Omega-3.
  3. Chia seeds, a substitute for eggs in vegan baking, are rich in protein.
  4. Legumes such as chickpeas, peanuts, black beans, kidney beans, green peas are excellent sources of vegan protein.
  5. Bean sprouts such as kidney bean sprout, lentil sprout, pea sprout, chickpea sprout have high-quality proteins because sprouting greatly increases the nutritional value of these foods.
  6. Tofu is a great source of protein and offers all the 9 essential amino acids.
  7. Broccoli is a protein-rich vegetable. Studies find that protein makes 29 percent of broccoli’s dry weight.
  8. Buckwheat is a healthy replacement for rice, potatoes, and pasta.


Q. What is the one main thing to keep in mind when expecting healing/ transformation out of a plant-based diet?
Contractor: Be mindful of portion sizes. Just because the recipe is plant-based, you cannot have servings beyond the general recommendations that are directed by your nutritionist.


Q.What are some quick recipes in a plant-based diet?
Jagasia: Vegan diet offers a variety of choices to plan your everyday meals. Here’s a quick guide.

  1. Chocolate mousse: You can make a super quick mousse by blending in some silken tofu with chocolate.
  2. Plant-based ready to eat food: Simply saute the vegetables you like (zucchini, broccoli, peas, carrots) and prepare a dip of your choice using commonly available herbs such as basil or oregano.
  3. Warming soups: Onion soup, pumpkin sage soup or broccoli soup are some easy, quick soups to make. Simply, roast the vegetables you like and blend them with some coconut milk. Add some nutritional yeast or potato for creamy texture.
  4. Crepes with innovation: Add a roasted and blended base of chickpeas and red bell peppers over cheelas or dosas. Tasty and nutritious, these bring a great variation to your everyday breakfast.

How can I make vegan yoghurt at home?
Jagasia: Buy a dairy starter from the grocery store. Warm soya milk, add the starter, mix it and leave it in a dry place overnight. Next day, you have your soya yoghurt ready.


Q. How can I add a variety of greens to everyday meals?
Contractor: Here are some interesting ways to introduce greens to a vegan diet:

  1. Add rare greens such as chenopodium, moringa or purslane into dishes like roti or theplas. This would both help with taste and nutrition.
  2. Blend the greens into your smoothie.
  3. Prepare chutneys. Simply, take a water based vegetable such as ridge gourd, green bell peppers, or radish to roast, include some onion or garlic for a dominant flavour and add some greens before blending them all together.


Q. How can one manage a vegan diet while having soya, tofu or gluten allergies?
Jagasia & Contractor: Here’s how you can manage a vegan diet without soy, tofu or gluten.

To replace soy: Instead of soya milk, have almond, sesame or rice milk. You can also try a mix of cashew and coconut to prepare the milk.

To make it, take 1 cup of cashew, a half cup of coconut, and 5 cups of clean water. Boil water and blend them together for 30 seconds. Strain it out. You get a creamy, rich texture that is also naturally sweet (because of cashew and coconut). You can add a splash of vanilla or cinnamon or a date for additional aroma and flavour.

To replace tofu: Make homemade tofu with chickpeas or peanuts.

To replace gluten: Have jowar, bajra, ragi, or millets. We have a great variety of millets in India such as foxtail, proso, barnyard, samai if you are allergic to the gluten in wheat.


Q. How can I make a vegan omelette?
Jagasia: You can make a vegan omelette using chickpea flour and tofu. Just blend these together and pan fry to get an omelette-like taste. You can add a lot of vegetables like mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and also vegan cheese for a cheesy flavour.




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