As New Zealanders consciously limit their meat consumption we speak to Nadia Lim about the pros and cons of vegetarianism and veganism. She also talks about her latest book, Vegful, her first ever to only have vegetable-based recipes which she hopes will keep even omnivores satisfied.
She tells Jesse Mulligan she decided to write a vege-based book simply because she loves vegetables.
“I probably eat plant-based roughly half the week and I just wanted to encourage people to get a bit more creative with vegetables.
“I think Kiwis are probably like the English where we’ve grown up with boiling vegetables all the time and there’s so much more you can do with them.”
Lim says vegetables are the one food source that you can’t eat too much of.
“It does everyone good, regardless of whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or an omnivore. There’s just so much goodness in them, as everybody knows.”
However, she’s not about to advocate a specific diet or vegetarianism in general.
“I tend to go a very flexible route. People will know what suits them best. The key thing is to listen to your body and see what kind of diet suits you best. For some people, being vegan or completely plant-based really does suit them best. For others, they actually do feel better when they have some meat. I’m very much a believer in doing what’s best for you.”
One of the biggest issues that come up for people considering a plant-based diet is the lack of B12, a vitamin essential for making red blood cells and typically found in dairy and meat products.
“If you’re vegetarian, no problem, you can still easily get B12. However, if you’re vegan and you eat no meat products like eggs or dairy, then you have to get B12 either from fortified sources or supplements. You have to be a bit careful with that one.”
She says you’d only need to look into B12 issues if you’re completely vegan.
Iron is another issue which comes up with plant-based diets, but Lim says you can “absolutely” get enough without resorting to meat. She says the key is planning and not being a “lazy vegan”.
“You’d have to make sure you’re eating a diet that’s full of natural, unprocessed goodness.”
Concerns over oestrogen in soy products is another concern, but Lim says you’d have to ingest huge quantities for it to have any effect.
Lim suggests that people looking at going vegan do it gradually, and for the right reasons.
“I’ve met some people where I get the sense that they’re treating it as another diet. They think that going vegan is going to somehow give them lots of energy and they’re going to lose weight – they’re treating it as just another diet, really, rather than a lifestyle thing.
She says that for some people, going vegan suddenly can upset the gut because of the huge increase in fibre to the diet.
“Maybe start with a few meat-free meals a week, then move it up to five, then six, then seven – and see how you go, see how you feel along the way.”
Finally, Lim says to beware of fad diets and says a healthy diet is actually quite simple.
“To eat well, you don’t need a degree in nutrition. You just need to eat good food, real food, food that’s not highly processed. There’s no way you can go wrong with doing that.”