The Times Of India, one of the country’s leading daily newspapers, printed a double-page spread hailing the benefits of a plant-based diet.
It is titled: ‘Life cycle analyses show a plant-based diet is most nutritious with least environmental impacts’.
Whilst India is widely considered a nation of vegetarians, the article claims sustainable and traditional diets are changing to ‘heavily promoted industrial diets’ which include more meat, refined starches, and sugar.
The country witnessed raging heatwaves in recent years, believed to be caused by climate change – and has made positive steps to promote plant-based diets since.
In the piece, an interview with a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard University stresses the importance and efficiency of plant-based eating for planetary and bodily health.
Walter C Willett, who is also a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said: “It is much more efficient to eat plants directly rather than feed them to animals and then eat the animals.
From analyses looking at the global community, he said: “We could sustainably produce about two servings of animal-sourced foods per day.”
Exceeding these numbers would ‘simply not be environmentally sustainable’, he added. He also said: “The ecological degradation involved would then threaten global food production.”
Looking at the health benefits, Prof. Willett explained that ‘almost all’ the nutrients found in meat can be obtained by eating plants rich in nutrients.
He added that reducing meat, red meat in particular, and replacing it with plant-based protein can reduce bad cholesterol.
Rohini Bajekal, a nutritionist and board member of Plant-Based Health Professionals UK agrees. She explained that plant-based proteins including beans and lentils have been a ‘core’ part of diets in India for centuries.
“A shift away from ultra-processed foods and animal foods such as dairy, towards whole grains such as brown or red rice, legumes, and more fruits and vegetables would reduce the burden of chronic lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure in India.
“Animal agriculture is a major driver of the climate crisis and global food insecurity – which affects over 189 million people in India today”, Rohini said.
The story was met with positive feedback. Kamal Dalal is a second-generation immigrant from Gujarat, India, and spent much of her childhood in Mumbai.
She said: “The Times of India is one of the most widely circulated newspaper in India. This is the first whole page spread on veganism that I’ve personally seen in the paper.”
Kamal expressed that growing interest in plant-based eating is ‘hugely significant in a country of 1.3 billion people’.
Despite the cow reversed as sacred by Hindus and Jains, Kamal adds that the country is ‘one of the largest producers of dairy and exporters of beef in the world’.
“This has been largely driven by the myth that cow’s milk and meat are necessary for strong bones and protein.
“The hope is that articles like these will start to shift public consciousness by highlighting the health benefits of a plant-based diet”, she said.