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Easternized Diet with Traditional Whole-Foods Best to Combat NCDs, Says Dr. Zeeshan Ali


Ahmedabad, July 10: The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a US-based non-profit organization advocating for promoting preventive medicine through plant-based nutrition, sponsored the Future of Health and Lifestyle Conclave at the two-day Vegan India Conference 2024.

The two-day conference that concluded on Sunday evening in Mumbai, was the largest plant-based event in the country, bringing together over 1,000 delegates, 70+ speakers, and 30+ exhibitors to explore the future of health, nutrition, food, fashion, and sustainable living through a plant-based lens.

“It’s never been more important to return plant-based foods to the centre of our plates,” said Zeeshan Ali, PhD, Nutrition Program Specialist at PCRM. “Heart disease and diabetes are ravaging communities in India. The influx of foods high in saturated fat, like dairy and meat products, are plaguing our arteries. Now is the time to leverage India’s traditional foods and bring back the humble lentil and nutritious millets that can help reverse heart disease and empower people to take control of their health.”

Presenting to an audience of over 500 vegans, vegan-curious and sceptics, Dr. Ali said that there is a mounting body of evidence that faults our diet and lifestyle for the rise in diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular issues, cancer, and hypertension. 

“Studies show that in 1990, leading causes of death and disorders in India were malnutrition, diarrhea typhoid etc. In 2016, the three leading causes of mortality were cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and diabetes,” Dr. Ali said.

He also showcased various studies that indicated a negative correlation between dairy consumption and women’s health.

“Dairy marketers have convinced us that milk and dairy products are essential for bone health. But in truth, humans can absorb only 32% of calcium present in milk. On the other hand, studies have found that increased milk consumption increases risk of mortality due to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and hip fractures.”

Dr. Ali said that the solution lies in re-easternizing our ‘westernized diets’ by leaning on traditional wisdom and scientific body of evidence to protect our health.

“Eat traditional foods. No deprivation, these are delicious, satisfying foods. These are the foods that we can eat without worrying about diabetes and heart disease. 100% whole wheat chapatis, daal chawal and sabzee, the humble bhindi tarkari without oil, methi paratha without oil, bhel puri, veg biryani etc.”

The event also featured a panel discussion on addressing perceived calcium and protein deficiency when on a vegan diet. Senior medical experts and educators like Dr. Rashmi Menon, Dr. Nandita Shah and Dr. Rupa Shah, fielded questions from the audience and moderator Dr. Ali to educate people about the importance of prioritizing whole foods into their diet.

The conclave also featured an exhibitor showcase, a start-up pitch stage, plant-based culinary demos, and an awards ceremony celebrating leaders in the plant-based movement. The exhibits ranged from vegan leather made from mango pulp to art and knick-knacks made of plantable seed paper.

The dignitaries in attendance included vegan enthusiast and Bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez, Telugu star and professional basketball player Arvind Krishna, and Kuntal Joisher world’s first vegan to climb Mount Everest.

“Our food system is broken, contributing to unethical animal exploitation, environmental degradation, and chronic disease,” said Palak Mehta, Founder & CEO of Vegan First, the organizer behind Vegan India Conference. “The conference emerges as an impetus to transform our food system by empowering people with the knowledge and resources to adopt plant-based alternatives.”

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