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BHABI SAYS
Shaniera Akram
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Issue Date 15 - 21 July, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Shaniera Akram

Hello readers!
So it's been my first week off meat and dairy. I know I can hear you already thinking "is this woman mad!"
Actually, I probably am but not because I have given up two food groups I used to love. In fact, I think it's one of the sanest things I have ever done. Now I am not saying I am giving it up forever but I am taking a break for now. But why? I hear you ask!
I recently watched a documentary on Netflix that completely shook my world. It was not a documentary on the inhuman treatment of animals because something like that would have compromised my omnivorous diet forever. It was a documentary that demonstrated the link between humans eating meat and the growing number of diseases we face throughout our lives. The documentary’s research linked a growing number of diseases to foods we consume in our daily diet. Now, I understand for as long as humans have been around, meat has been one of the most important food groups to date, but the documentary suggests that through the years the production of meat has morphed in to an industry full of gross farming, bacteria from packaging and distribution, and chemically treated products with immoral treatment of animals. Explaining that meat and dairy was not what it used to be. It also suggests the human body does not need milk or dairy after we develop teeth. The documentary goes on to suggest that our bodies thrive on a non-acidic environment. People who are prone to disease or cancer need a non-acidic environment to help fight the disease. Their research suggests that red meat, poultry, fish and dairy including eggs, milk and cheese are amongst the highest acidic food products available to us.

Shaniera Akram
I'm not saying that I'm totally convinced or that I will never eat meat or dairy again but this documentary opened my eyes to the possibility that maybe there was enough information and research to suggest that many human diseases including diabetes and high blood pressure are related to our diets. Furthermore, they believe there is strong evidence that dairy inflames acne and eczema to name a few skin problems. After watching over half the documentary, I wondered what a life without milk would be like. Don't children and women need milk for strong bones? But in the second half of the film they explain that babies only need milk for the duration of time that we don't have teeth. We cannot eat food so milk is the only source of nutrition available to us. Milk as we know it has so many hormones and growth factors that are unfamiliar to our bodies and are associated with all types of nastiness, while the fat content in it goes through the roof.
Now I can be a very sceptical person sometimes but started to think about how much meat and dairy I was consuming on a daily basis, which left me shocked. I think eating a high protein low carbohydrate diet with the occasional veggie juice was the key to a healthy body when a certain research indicates that we can source all the protein, iron and calcium we need from vegetables (vitamins, we think, we only get from chicken, red meat, fish and dairy). Until I saw this documentary, I believed that carbohydrates increase our weight when really it's the animal fats in our diets that do not allow us to break down the carbs. So I dove deeper in to my research and started to calculate the ingredients in my diet. Although I love my fresh fruits and vegetables, I realised that the balance between my vegetable and meat/dairy intake was skewed. I ate more meat and dairy than vegetables and added up my daily intake which included a few cups of tea and coffee with milk, eggs, yoghurt, a little cheese, butter on bread and maybe dessert for the day. I also consumed chicken tikka and haleem and some imported frozen fish with a small bowl of salad with creamy dressing.
Let's just say that the documentary wasn't wrong, I was now aware of consuming a lot of meat and dairy regularly and the reason behind the consumption. I then looked at my children's diet which consisted of milk, dairy, eggs, qeema paratha in the morning, roti, naan, aloo gosht, cheesy salad, burgers, deep fried chicken and a heavy amount of processed meats that are served by child-friendly institutions. I was shocked. I realised we actually are a family with a diet based on animal products.

Shaniera Akram
My family is happy and healthy, and I want them to grow up big and strong but am I putting too much emphasis on a meat and dairy diet? Are we telling our families that it's healthy to only eat meat and roti in one meal? So here it is. My family is still eating meat and dairy and it’s been 10 days since my vegan diet began. I have made the transition quite easily, researching how much vital vitamins and minerals I need and from which plant based foods they can be acquired from. And to be honest I have never felt better. My energy levels are high, I am sleeping better, my routine is the same and I still exercise and drink loads of water. My diet consists of oats with nuts and fruits for breakfast; lentil based foods including dal, chickpeas, hummus and brown rice for lunch; and salads, vegetable dishes such as vegetable lasagne, desi sabzi, risottos, soups and patties for dinner. I drink raw fresh juices, coconut water and tonics throughout the day. And best of all I get my milk fixes through homemade almond, cashew, oat and soy milk. To include something heavier, I would choose coconut cream which tastes great. There are different vegan milk options available so it never gets boring.
Now I want to stress on the fact that this is not for everyone. This is a personal decision. I have been a healthy young woman to date and have the time to research and plan what my body needs to stay fit. I have always loved plant based foods so I don't feel deprived by making this temporary change. All I am saying is to maintain balance. Notice what you consume on a daily basis. If your diet is made up of more animal based foods, try to teach your body to incorporate more plant based foods in your diet. I still believe that balance and education is the key to healthy living. Start today, it's never too late. Learn about your food, research what you feed your body with. We have the tools and information at our fingertips now. You only have one body so learn about it. Give what it needs to stay healthy.
I will update you all on my progress and the obstacles I might face in the future.
Lots of love,
Shaniera






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