Vegan diet is the best medicine for your body

Vegan diet is the best medicine for your body
By Anuradha Sawhney Jun 23 2016
Tags: Foods and Drinks
Last week, I read an article on John McDougall, an American physician and best-selling author, who claims that degenerative disease can be prevented and treated with a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based/vegan diet — especially the one based on starches such as potatoes, rice and corn — which excludes animal foods and added vegetable oils.

The McDougall Program uses a pure vegetarian diet, based on starchy vegetables, plus fresh/frozen fruits and other vegetables. McDougall says that our bodies are meant to be healthy; we shouldn’t need drugs or surgery except in times of emergency. Why, then, have we become so dependent on these interventions? The answer is this: all too often it’s the food we eat that is making us sick.

According to, when looked at from the perspective of human evolution, the current diet we are eating is a bizarre anomaly, unlike anything we ate over the last four million years. Our blood, arteries, and cells are not designed to function under so much fat and cholesterol. Our intestines are not designed to function in the absence of fibre.

Our immune system is not designed to function without an abundant supply of plant-based nutrients and phytochemicals.

He goes on to say, with our cells drowning in fat, cholesterol, animal proteins and artificial chemicals, and our immune system deprived of what it needs to maintain itself, it’s no wonder so many of us get cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and other age-related illnesses.

Even poly and monounsaturated fats – found in large amounts in vegetable oils and fish – have been shown to depress the immune system, increase bleeding and promote cancers, especially those of the colon, prostate and breast. Because all fats are easily stored by the body, too much dietary fat makes people overweight and lays the foundation for a host of other problems like heart disease, cancer and adult-onset diabetes. The body produces all the cholesterol it needs. As for fat, plants already contain adequate amounts, and only plants make the essential fatty acids your body needs to function. What’s more, plant foods never contain cholesterol.

But here’s the best part. Dr McDougall says that given the right diet and lifestyle, the body will recover. When we remove the poisons from our lives and replace them with health-promoting food, the body can heal itself, even from illnesses deemed “incurable.”

This same hypothesis of homeostasis (that our body is always trying to heal itself) is followed by top nutritionist Shveta Sanghani, founder of Wellness and Homeostasis, Mumbai. Sanghani told me that she agrees with the concept of a high-starch diet, accompanied with plant protein acquired from beans, lentils and nuts. Starch like peas, potato (with skin, a better choice), corn, sweet potato and yam are rich in phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals as well as a good source of energy for augmenting performance and efficiency. Starch sources, when accompanied by plant protein, make a complete protein and can be safely consumed when symptoms of high sugar, triglycerides, hormonal imbalance and metabolic syndrome. She said it is a myth that one needs to stop starch to cure metabolic syndromes.

So what Sanghani and McDougall are saying is that if we follow the right diet, we can relax in the innate mechanism of self-regulation, which can be the most potent medicine for our bodies. So, instead of stressing about our illnesses, ensure you eat right and let your body fix itself. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” said Hippocrates, father of medicine. Eat Food. Not Too much. Mostly Plants.

Please note: if you’re seriously ill or on medication, please consult your physician who knows about nutrition and its effects on health. Never change medications without professional advice. I am not a doctor.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

Supercharge the gut bacteria for good health

Supercharge the gut bacteria for good health
By Anuradha Sawhney Jun 16 2016
Tags: Leisure Writing
I recently received an email from, which spoke about something that I have long maintained…the importance of good gut health for a person’s overall health. The article reiterated it by showing the connection between good bowel condition (known as the microbiome) and cancer prevention. Good gut flora will help you prevent and fight cancer. That’s a fact.

Cultivating beneficial gut bacteria is your first line of defence against cancer and many other serious diseases. They do this by boosting your immune system at the places you are almost always hit first with toxins, heavy metals, parasites, fungi and harmful bacteria. We should all learn to nurture the system that protects us from so many layers of possible invasion of foreign contaminants.

A research conducted by the University of Chicago found that boosting gut bacteria (specifically with the probiotic bifidobacterium) equalled the results of immunotherapy (using our body’s immune system to attack cancer) in slowing the growth of melanoma cancer cells! The researchers then combined the two (gut bacteria and immunotherapy) modalities and achieved success that was comparable to anti-cancer drugs.

Another study conducted in France noted that some healthy gut flora was activated when immunotherapy was administered.

According to thetruthab­outc­, the human micro­biome is an incredible network of 100 trillion organisms that live in and on the body. They are made up of beneficial bacteria as well as fungi, viruses and bacteria that aren’t so beneficial. We need this microcosm to survive. The relationship between them and the humans who carry them is symbiotic in nature. Antibiotics disrupt this relationship in a similar way that chemotherapy affects the human body.

Chemotherapy wipes out perfectly healthy, non-cancerous cells, along with the cancerous cells, from one’s body. Similarly, antibiotics wipe out all bacteria (the bad kind as well as the good kind that you can’t live without). Destroying what keeps you healthy simply isn’t a good method of treatment.

Building up your gut microbiome is the way to prevent cancer, fight cancer and live a longer, healthier life overall. Diet is everything.

So, much of our poor gut health is linked to what we eat and drink. It is likely the primary reason native peoples have a non-existent rate of cancer. They have a far lower exposure to toxins, are not inundated with stress and consume a diet of natural, raw foods (definitely more of a hunter-gatherer way of life) that aren’t processed. They also don’t fill their bodies with antibiotics at every turn.

Incorporate into your diet the food source that healthy gut bacteria eat to survive, in the form of pre-biotics like artichokes, chicory, garlic, onions, leek, shallots, asparagus, beetroot, dandelion greens, fennel, peas, cabbage, nuts and seeds. Also, incorporate a variety of probiotic foods to diversify the healthy bacteria in your gut. Water kefir, kombucha tea, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickled veggies are some examples of this.

According to, cabbage is high in anti-inflammatory properties, vitamins A and C. Cabbage also reduces lipids in the bloodstream. When cabbage is fermented into sauerkraut, the fermentation process opens up walls of its cells, thus, accessing a higher ratio of vitamins. It has been said that sauerkraut has 200 times more vitamin C than the head of cabbage before fermentation.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

Word of caution before rains whet your appetite

Word of caution before rains whet your appetite
By Anuradha Sawhney Jun 09 2016
Tags: The Monsoon Magic, Foods and Drinks
Word of caution before rains whet your appetite
Hooray! The monsoon is around the corner, finally! Maybe the farmers around the country will be able to get a good harvest, and the groundwater, which has been badly depleted by industries, will be replenished. The looming water crisis will, thus, abate for a little more time. Let’s hope acche din aa gaye hai, anyway.


Rainy season is the time of the year when everything gets rejuvenated, including our spirits. Perhaps, the best thing one can think of when it is pouring outside, is to enjoy a cup of hot tea and freshly fried pakodas.

However, be careful. Pakodas, or anything deep-fried, can potentially decrease the digestive efficiency of the body and, hence, must be avoided. Heavy oils (extracted from mustard, peanut or sesame seed) used for frying increase pitta (a body element according to ayurveda), and moisturise and oil the internal digestive system, therefore inviting infection. Light oils like rice bran oil and olive oil are better substitutes.In monsoon, we also need to be extra-careful about the water we drink. A study by Christina Tang on river water collected during the monsoon in Kerala found that the samples contained 1,600 E coli bacteria per 100 ml of water on an average, far exceeding the WHO standards on drinking water, which call for zero E coli per 100ml. If this nonpotable water is used to wash utensils, it could enter our bodies through these utensils.

Anushree Sahai, a food specialist, says, “While cooking, wash all leafy vegetables and cauliflower carefully, as these can often contain worms and dirt from the streets. Have fresh, well-cleaned and steamed foods during the rainy season.”

During monsoon, viruses cause infection, cold and flu. So, eat lots of food with vitamin C to build your immunity. Infections like cold and swine flu, among others, spread through unclean hands, so use a proper hand sanitizer. Drink lots of hot soup, full of as many vegetables as you like.

Besides the soup recipe explained in the box, here is another one by Suchitra Pillai, theatre artist, actor, singer and VJ.

Take a carrot, a handful of french beans, three to four garlic cloves, one green chilli, one teaspoon sesame oil, one cup fresh corn kernels, straight off the cob if possible, three to four cups of vegetable stock, and salt and pepper to taste.

Chop the carrot and beans. Crush the garlic and chop the chilli fine. Heat some oil and sauté the carrot, green chilli and garlic. Add the beans and corns and sauté for another minute. Add some water and boil till the vegetables are tender. Cool then grind to a purée. Return the purée to the pan, add the hot vegetable stock, salt and pepper. Garnish with coriander leaf sprigs.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

Meal replacement bar is not a permanent solution

Meal replacement bar is not a permanent solution

By Anuradha Sawhney Apr 21 2016

Tags: Leisure Writing

Who likes Alec Baldwin? I do, I do, I do! And I like him even more because he is advocating health in a public service announcement (PSA) for This is so cool, because so often celebrities will endorse anything, with no regard to the negative connotations of that product on people’s health. But not so Alec.


The PSA by Alec is about meal replacement bars. What are these bars? According to, these bars were initially invented with the serious athlete in mind, one who needed extra fuel for workouts. But today, everyone wants them. People in a hurry look for food they can eat on the go rather than take time to sit down and eat a proper meal. And seriously, in this fast paced world, its perfectly understandable that we won’t always have time to eat a meal at a table. So these products have gone mainstream, being consumed by anyone needing a nutritional boost. The range is dizzying, with more and more bars being conceived all the time. These bars fill huge amounts of shelf space in the gym, grocery, and health food stores and there are literally hundreds of bars and even meal replacement drinks to choose from.


Choosing a so called healthy meal replacement is a perfectly acceptable substitution, as long as it’s only once in a while. But people tend to consume bars more and more often because of its convenience and ease of use.


Alec Baldwin is giving radical nutrition advice to the millions who subsist on these mundane meal replacement bars. Alec tells them to eat actual meals. And the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has actually come out with a meal replacement bar replacement meal plan which not only saves time and money — it’s actually more nutritious than meal replacement bars! This plan has all the nutrition of a meal replacement bar — and you can make it right at home! Cool isn’t it!


Alec’s PSA follows a new scientific study highlighting the many benefits of the meal replacement bar replacement meal which is based on the fact that eating more fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes could save millions of lives and trillions of dollars, says the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.


According to this research published online, vegetarian and vegan diets are best for the environment and human health. Why? The researchers assessed environmental, economic, and health impacts associated with a dietary change in the future. The diets compared included proportional reduction in animal products, reduced or meat-free diets and diets based on present health standards. A shift to a plant-based diet projected reductions in global mortality and greenhouse gases caused by food production by 10 per cent and 70 per cent respectively, compared with a control scenario set in 2050.


According to the results, a global dietary shift would save an estimated 79 million human lives and avoid 5.1 million deaths per year. Estimates for a completely vegan diet project closer to 129 million lives saved and 8.1 million deaths avoided. These projections also saw trillions of dollars saved in health care costs by 2050!


Fascinating! The benefits of a shift in diet to a vegetarian and vegan diet by Indians would also result in longevity, a saving of crores of rupees in healthcare cost, not to mention just a better quality of life. Today, almost all the adult population of India is suffering from lifestyle induced health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and even cancers. Imagine a population free of such diseases. And its all in our hands. A simple diet shift is all we need.


(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

Colour your taste buds in every shade of purple

Colour your taste buds in every shade of purple

By Anuradha Sawhney Apr 28 2016

Tags: Leisure Writing

A friend of mine recently gifted me a whole lot of baingans, aka aubergine aka eggplant. All organic, all fresh. I did not want to waste them and so used them up in many different ways, including pickling them. I made pickle, salad, mousse and many more dishes. To learn how, read on.


To use aubergine in a salad, all you got to do is roast the aubergine in an oven, place in the fridge overnight so they firm up, then slice them thin and add into the salad along with tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and lettuce. Toss the salad in some virgin avocado or walnut oil along with some fresh herbs, lemon juice and serve right away.


To make aubergine pickle, first wash and dry the aubergine. Slice them and keep aside. Boil some water, add vinegar into it with a dash of gur and then add the aubergine slices into the boiling water. Turn off the gas, let it cool, squeeze the excess liquid from the aubergine and place in a jar with extra virgin olive oil, herbs and some salt. Cover the lid tightly and let it stand for a few days. Store in the fridge if not consumed within a week.


Eggplant mousse is even simpler. Roast and mash some eggplant. Keep aside. Drain some tofu and place in a blender. Blend till smooth, then add the eggplant, some maple syrup and some vegan cream. Blend well and place in small molds in the fridge to set. Garnish with chopped walnuts and pine nuts before serving.


Here’s a tip I learnt the hard way. The best way to roast aubergines are to coat them with some oil and then place them in the oven, air fryer or even on the gas flame. The skin peels off smoothly and leaves no charred black bits. And to remove their bitter flavour, sprinkle some salt on them, place in a colander for a while, then squeeze out the excess liquid.


This recipe is by Talat Aziz, the famous ghazal maestro, from my book

The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!


3-4 servings



1 medium-sized, round, purple aubergine

½ a small onion

5-6 garlic cloves

1-2 green chillies (optional)

1 tbsp olive oil

A pinch or up to ½ tsp sugar, as per taste

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ cup cleaned and chopped coriander


To serve

12-15 bruschettas

Fresh basil leaves, finely chopped



Wash the aubergine and pat dry.

Using tongs, roast the aubergine over an open gas flame, turning it around, till the skin is charred all over and the flesh is cooked through.

Let it cool, then peel off the skin. Mash the flesh well and put it in a bowl.

Chop the onion, garlic and green chillies (optional) fine.

Put a non-stick pan over moderate heat. When hot, add the oil (optional).

Lightly sauté the onions, till they turn translucent. Remove from heat and add them to the mashed aubergine.

Add the garlic, green chillies and sugar. Mix, till all the ingredients are well distributed.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour in the balsamic vinegar and stir, till the vinegar is absorbed into the mixture. Add the chopped coriander and mix it all well.

Cover the bowl with cling film and place it in the refrigerator for the flavours to blend for about 4 hours.

When ready to serve, put the bruschettas into a moderately hot oven (180⁰C) to crisp them.

Arrange the bruschettas on a serving platter and spoon the aubergine over them.

Sprinkle the basil leaves over each bruchetta and serve immediately.


Note: If you don’t have bruschettas, you can cut brown bread slices into 4 and crisp them.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

No way, vegan is not a short form for vegetarian

No way, vegan is not a short form for vegetarian

By Anuradha Sawhney        May 05 2016

Tags: Leisure Writing

Today I thought I would write about the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan diet. I realise there are many people who don’t necessarily know the difference between the two when actually there is an entire world of a difference. There was a recent news report with glaring headlines, which said a vegan woman committed suicide because her husband forced her to eat meat. I immediately clicked on the article, only to realise that the reporter interchanged between vegan and vegetarian. The lady who killed herself was actually vegetarian but because not everyone knows the difference, she was labelled as vegan.


And this is not the only instance. A restaurant that opened near my house last week said it was a satvik and vegan restaurant. Of course, I went there lickety split only to discover they did not know what vegan meant! The manager told me it was a vegetarian restaurant. And I can never forget that moment, 10 years back, when I was at a restaurant in Mumbai, tired after a long PETA shoot and my heart leaped with joy when I saw a vegan burger listed on the menu only to realise that it was served with a slice of cheese!


The main difference is that vegans will not consume any foods of animal origin, not even honey, while a vegetarian might consume eggs (ovo-vegetarian), or dairy (lacto-vegetarian).


Being vegan is definitely more of a lifestyle choice and a philosophy than a diet. A vegan does not eat anything that is of animal origin. Vegans will not use animal based products for clothing or any other purpose. A person can become vegan because of ethical reasons involving animal rights, for environmental factors, or for better health. According to The Vegetarian Resource Group, vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics and soaps derived from animal products.


The latest statistics show that approximately 2.5 per cent of people in the US are vegans. And this number is growing daily. India, too, is seeing a huge rise in the number of vegans around. While many of them are vegan for ethical reasons (because of the cruelty involved in animal farming and slaughter), a vast majority is vegan today because of health. Items eaten freely by the world population, namely bakery products, pizzas, burgers, milk and its derivatives, meat, chicken, fish, seafood, pork, beef etc, sugar and fat have led to a crisis in health which no amount of medicines can fix. A drastic shift in diet is needed and this is where vegan comes in.


Vegan is considered as the diet of the future, one that will fix all wrongs to one’s health, one that will reverse heart disease, reverse diabetes, reverse hyper tension, reverse certain cancers and even help one to lose weight. The reason for this is simple. Vegans tend to eat healthier than vegetarians. Just by not consuming any animal products they gain many points. And add to that the different super foods consumed by vegans like seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, melon, sesame, flax, hemp), berries (goji, cranberries, raisins, rasberries), nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashew, pecan, macadamia, hazel), whole grains (like the many different types of millets, brown, black, wild and red rice, amaranth, quinoa), beans (pinto, kidney, baked, chickpeas, black eyed beans, black beans, etc), all the vegetables and fruits possible.


It just makes good sense doesn’t it to turn vegan? If you have the choice of choosing what to eat, know that by following the vegan path, one can gain better health. Choose well.


(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

Think twice before you go for those buffalo wings

Think twice before you go for those buffalo wings

By Anuradha Sawhney May 12 2016

Tags: Industrial policy

Earlier this year the Food and Drug Adm­inistration ann­ounced that nearly 70 per cent of chicken meat being sold in America contains arsenic, a substance that is cancer causing if ingested in large amounts. Arsenic is fed to the chickens via their feed, so that they gain weight and their meat gives the illusion of a healthy colouring and a plump appearance.


Have you heard of anything more bizarre? I have. It’s that people are still buying chicken meat, knowing fully well that it could cause them to fall terribly sick! Arsenic has been linked to bladder, lung, skin, kidney and colon cancer, while low-level exposures can lead to partial paralysis and diabetes.


Though controversial, and highly unsafe, arsenic-based drugs have been used by poultry and turkey producers in animal feed since the 1940s. Now the FDA has finally ordered the phasing out of the last chicken feed containing arsenic. And that’s the news from far away lands.


But chickens in India are not fed arsenic you say? Well, that’s not correct. Even in India, the meat industry continues to feed medically important antibiotics to factory-farmed chickens, fish, pigs and cattle. These are given so as to speed up the growth of the animals and also to prevent the spread of diseases in the cramped and unhygienic environments that prevail on animal factory farms.


Antibiotics are not the only chemicals administered to factory farm animals. Many animals are fed growth-promoting hormones, appetite stimulants and pesticides, fertilisers, herbicides and aflatoxins that collect in the animals’ tissues and milk and which can form a toxic residue in animal tissue. This animal tissue is then sold to consumers of meat.


A strong scientific consensus exists that this practice fosters antibiotic resistance in bacteria to the detriment of human health. According to Dr Michael Greger, director, public health and animal agriculture, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), “antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be found in the air, groundwater, and soil around factory farms and on retail meat and people can be exposed to these pathogens through infected meat, vegetables fertilised with raw manure, and water supplies contaminated by farm animal waste. Resistance genes that emerge can then be swapped between bacteria.”


A DNA fingerprinting study by Italian researchers in 2007 showed that antibiotic-resistance genes could be detected directly in chicken meat and pork.


The world’s leading medical, agricultural, and veterinary authorities, all agree that antibiotic overuse in animal agriculture is contributing to human public health problems.


The incidence of antibiotic resistance in India is increasing widely around the country. One of the reasons could be the fact that people are consuming antibiotics with their meat products.


More recently, about 23,000 chickens died due to bird flu infection in the last month in a farm in Karnataka. And now the authorities have ordered the cruel killing of about 1.50 lakh birds in the farm in order to prevent the spread of the infection to other areas.


You know how this story is going to end: chicken breeders will now add more and more antibiotics and medicines to chicken feed to keep the animals healthy and alive. And then this medicine laden meat will be consumed by meat eaters.


Still not convinced? Did you know that the the Indian government has no policy/ statistics on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture? And here is another shocker. The majority of the antibiotics produced in the United States and the world go not to human medicine, but to usage on animal farms!


Be safe, eat smart. Be aware that when you eat meat, chicken, fish, pork and other animal meat, you are consming not just meat but also the medicines the animals were fed. Switch to a healtheir diet and reap an instant reward.


(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)


The vegans are coming, the vegans are coming! My article yesterday on the phenomenal rise in the number of vegans in the UK… a 246% increase in 3 years!!! And on vegan protein.

Look beyond meat and eggs for your protein

of late, there have been positive news about vegans. It seems vegans are climbing Mount Everest, vegan athletes are ruling sports, vegan body builders are becoming commonplace. What’s more, apparently, being vegan is catching up with the younger population.

For example, there has been a 42 per cent increase in vegan Britons between the ages of 15 to 34. The number of Britishers who no longer eat diary, meat or fish soared by 350,000 in a decade. Can you imagine this? This is a 247 per cent increase. According to the research by Ipsos MORI and The Vegan Society in partnership with Vegan Life magazine, there are 521,000 vegans across Britain and 1.68million vegetarians.

Two time world boxing champion David Haye became a vegan for the health benefits and there is a growing list of elite meat-free athletes, including squash champion James Willstrop, Olympic cyclist Lizzie Armitstead and former footballer Phil Neville. Closer home, in Pune, Dhruv Chaudhuri, a vegan body builder who runs a gym, has showed us that it is possible to build and maintain a body on vegan protein. And speaking of vegan protein, if you insist that you can only build your muscles on meat and eggs, you’ll be amazed by the various sources of vegan protein available today.

Dhruv says that vegans get their proteins in a myriad of ways. From non dairy milks, like cashew, almond and soya milk; different seeds like chia, sesame, sunflower, flax, pumpkin to butter from almond cashew, sesame (tahini) and, of course, the peanut. There are all types of beans — red kidney beans, flat beans, black beans, black eyed beans, chickpeas, channas, moong beans, masoor, broad beans — the list is long. Quinoa is another healthful and tasty source of good vegan protein.

Where do elephants, hippopotami, rhinoceros, giraffes and other animals get their protein to grow big and strong and healthy? From eating green plants, of course. So another very good source of vegan protein is the myriad of dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, Swiss chards, lettuce, amaranth, cabbage, broccoli, peas, and even sun dried tomatoes. Green soya beans or edamame are very popular for their taste and health benefits in Japan.

Want to learn how to make butter out of nut? It’s very easy. Take your choice of nut, be it cashew, almond, peanut or sesame. First dry roast them without any oil. Let them cool. Once cool, put them in a powerful blender and start the machine. Keep on blending till the nuts release their natural oils. Stop in between to scrape down the sides of the blender with a spatula. Add some salt to taste if you like. And there you have it, nut butter. This butter can be stored in an airtight glass container at room temperature.

You can use this butter in place of butter in many ways. On toast, with a cup of tea. As a substitute for butter in baking cakes. In fact you can even make nut milk from this butter by taking two tablespoons of nut butter and mixing it with some water in a mixie. You will get instant nut milk. The colour may not be white because the nuts have been roasted but there will be nothing lacking in taste or health benefits.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)