The vegan option

3 min read
18 Dec 2017
3 min read
1129 words
Our fitness expert tells you more about veganism and wellness

New perspectives that I gain after meeting new people from various fields is the reason I love socialising. Last week, I was fortunate enough to meet one such personality. Her name is Nikki Botha, and I met her at the Asia for Animals Conference held in Kathmandu and hosted by Jane Goodall Institute, Nepal. This South African vegan chef is looking to correct the common misconception that adopting a vegan lifestyle means eating bland food and licking carrots as the occasional treat. This enthusiastic and passionate animal rights activist wants to show with her cooking that it is possible to prepare simple, healthy and delicious vegan meals. I sat down with her for a quick chat to discuss more about veganism and wellness. 

Conscious decisions

“As a vegetarian who grew up in a dairy farm, I used to think that veganism was an extreme lifestyle choice. However, it was after doing some research that I realised that there were things about animal-based milk that I was overlooking,” Botha says. “For example, I found out that calves were sent to slaughterhouses and that females were injected with hormones and forced to produce milk. This knowledge was one of the many reasons behind my transition to veganism.”Botha had never imagined herself taking up a culinary profession, since she was never a good cook. “Even a task as simple as making toast used to feel like a huge hassle, so I relied mostly on take-outs,” she says. However, she realised that this was what she wanted to do while aboard the Sea Shepherd, a vessel, where she was entrusted with the kitchen, as she was the only one without an engineering background. She soon discovered her creative outlet as she used various ingredients to come up with dishes that everyone aboard the Sea Shepherd loved. Subsequently, she chose a career path with vegan food as her focus.

Veganism and wellness 

Botha emphasises the negative impact animal products have on our overall wellness. “I think it’s important to realise that our bodies struggle to break down the animal fat that we ingest,” she says. “Why are we taking better care of our material goods than of our own bodies? We want the best fuel and parts for our cars, and yet, when it comes to our bodies, we fuel ourselves with substandard products. It’s high time that we reflected on this issue and invested more on our own health.’

Here are a few things you should consider about veganism and how it complements our wellness.According to Botha, it’s common knowledge that animals bred in factories and farms are injected with a lot of hormones and antibiotics, and that’s what you end up ingesting. This eventually causes your body to build resistance to similar antibiotics. So when you fall sick, your body will respond less effectively to similar antibiotics, which slows down your recovery.

Research has consistently shown that our bodies function best on plant-based nutrition. For example, we get stronger, better and more nutritious calcium from plant-based milk than animal-based milk. Botha references a study which concluded that the ratio of osteoporosis,  a condition where bones become fragile and susceptible to fractures, is higher in countries where people consume lot of dairy, as opposed to those who don’t. She says that the industry-generated illusion that calcium content in animal milk has miraculous properties is far from true.

Botha guarantees that if one adopts a vegan lifestyle, one can expect enhanced health. There are many people who have chosen veganism after a major health issue and experienced better well-being. Being physically healthy boosts your mental and spiritual wellness as well. Less stress, better sleep and more energy will not only make you productive, but will also give you the chance to better explore the things around you. You will see the world in a whole new light as you become more aware of the impact you have on others and on the environment around you. You become more compassionate—both towards yourself and others. 

Nikki Botha

Changing human behavior

The theme for this year’s Asia for Animals conference was ‘Changing Human Behaviour’, and here are a few things you can anticipate and do while changing your behaviour and adopting a vegan lifestyle.

Expect your body to rebel. Botha says that you must be patient with the changes. You need to give yourself time by training your body to adapt to those changes. As your body is already used to a certain kind of diet, it might get shocked by the sudden lack of ‘normal’ food. You might find, for example, that your bowel movements have accelerated, or that your cravings have become stronger.

Botha says that Nepal is blessed with a wide range of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. Hence, we should make the most out of the options nature has provided us with.We think it’s difficult to take this step towards better health, but it’s not. Start off slow by cutting down on meat, and slowly introduce plant-based milk to your diet. There are numerous alternatives to animal-based milk, such as soya bean milk, oat milk and rice milk. “Rice is the staple in most Asian cuisines, and it’s not that hard to incorporate milk and rice into your new and improved lifestyle,” says Botha.

Think about this: we are the only species that not only consumes the milk of another organism, but also sticks to this behaviour into adulthood. “Why are we consuming someone else’s milk?” says Botha. “ I believe that by doing so, we are justifying the act of stealing, and teaching younger generations that it is okay to take something that belongs to someone else.”

Next week, I feature some delicious vegan recipes of dishes whipped up by Nikki herself.