Why eco-friendly diet may not be health-friendly

Many plant-based products have higher salt levels than real meat, a challenge that food manufacturers need to address. Photo: Wikipedia

The push for plant-based diets today is perhaps the largest it has ever been in remembered history. While many ancient cultures espoused the virtues of eschewing meat and vegetarianism was periodically promoted in pockets across the world (Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci is said to have abstained from eating meat or poultry!), it is only since the Covid-19 pandemic that we find a significant shift in the way people view food and dietary choices. Concern for the environment, especially among Gen Z, compassion towards animals, and wellness are all driving the largest push to plant-based diets ever witnessed on the planet.

Even in India, which has one of the largest vegetarian populations in the world, there is a whole new wave of plant-based alternatives that are changing food market dynamics, especially in big cities. There is a significant rise in the availability and popularity of plant-based foods, with a wide range of options now available in supermarkets, restaurants, and cafes. Indore, which has a large segment of vegetarian diners, boasts of a luxury hotel that has three Food and Beverage outlets and one of the best Sunday brunch buffets in a city that loves its food.

Also read | Indian scientist develops inexpensive pH sensor that can tell if your food is spoiled

In fact, the Sheraton Grand Palace Indore is the first and only Marriott hotel anywhere in the world that is purely vegetarian. And no, this is not an isolated trend. Even global fast-food chains have taken note of what is a decisive market shift — Burger King now serves ‘Impossible Whopper’, a plant-based flame-grilled patty; Starbucks has launched vegan beverages and plant-based alternatives such as oat, almond and soya milk; and, quintessential Indonesian ingredient tempeh has made an appearance in India, thanks to brands like Hello Tempayy that is positioning it as an alternative to paneer.

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