Which diet to follow: Veg, non-veg or vegan

Sushil Dhital


Amount and type of food we eat is commonly affected by cultural practice, individual food habits and buying capacity. Common meal pattern in our diet is rice, vegetable curry and dals with inclusions of milk, meat, egg, fruits and pickles occasionally. The pattern is diverse on festival and special occasions. Dealing with individual, the meal patterns can be of vegetarian, vegan and non-vegetarian type.

Vegetarian meal comprises mainly plant origin foods and few animal sources — milk and milk products, eggs and honey. Vegan meal consists of only plant origin foods. Non-vegetarian meal includes mainly plant origin foods with significant quantity of meat and non-meat animal foods.

It does not matter whether we are vegetarian, vegan or non-vegetarian. Diet we consume should be balanced in terms of carbohydrate, protein, fat, minerals and vitamins content. In fact, there is no ideal diet suitable for all and no formula for a miracle diet.

Meat, fish and eggs have high nutritive value (rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals). Animal protein is considered superior to plant protein. Fish proteins are much more nutritious than meat and eggs for digestion and absorption. Fish oil is the richest source of vitamin A and D. Eggs are considered as the ideal diet for all groups. Countering these benefits, saturated fats and cholesterol in eggs are the causative of atherosclerosis (clogging of arteries) which might lead to heart attack or strokes, making it unsuitable for regular consumption.

The metabolic waste of high protein digestion, for example urea, may lead to kidney and gall bladder disorders. These foods are devoid of roughness (fibres) which may enhance gastric disorder in stomach. Disease carrying micro-organism associated with them are also critical. Consuming meat from diseased, sick and unhealthy animals may cause various deadly diseases to humans — rabies, anthrax or galanders. Disease like Mad Cow and SARS hit the news few months ago. So pressure cooking of meat is recommended to kill these pathogens.

Cereals, pulses and vegetables are the basic of all diet patterns. Cereals are good sources of carbohydrate. Pulses and oilseeds are rich in protein and fats. Vegetable and fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals and also provide fibre. Oil (fat) present in them is unsaturated and contains high percentage of essential fatty acids. Cereals and pulses protein are deficit in one or other essential amino acid, so a combination of both in diet substitutes the deficit.

Minerals and vitamins in cereals and pulses are less easily absorbed compared to meat, fish ands egg due to presence of fibre and other organic constituents. Inclusion of seasonal fruits and vegetables in diet overcome these.

Common Nepali diet of breakfast in morning (comprising one or more item — tea, milk, bread, or rice flakes) lunch in afternoon (rice, maize, millet, dal, vegetables and pickles with or without Milk, curd and meat items), similarly dinner in evening consisting similar items and inclusions of seasonal fruits and tubers is a perfect and balanced diet.

However, knowingly or unknowingly we are deteriorating the nutrient content of food. Wholewheat flour (atta) is more nutritious than the refined one (maida) which is deprived of B vitamins, iron and fibre. Brown and parboiled rice is more nutritious than white polished rice. Washing rice before cooking, washes away essential vitamins. The use of baking soda in cooking reduces vitamin content in food. Fermented food like yoghurt, lassi, buttermilk have higher amounts of B vitamins than milk.

Germinating pulses will increase vitamin content and make it easily digestible. Fermented vegetable like gundruk, cabbage, cauliflower and naturally fermented pickles are the best appetisers. Chopped vegetable should not be exposed to light or washed for long. Similarly, drinking tea with meals is also undesirable. The tannins prevent absorption of minerals. Late and heavy dinner also induces more acidity.