By Rachel Kakraba
Health, they say is wealth, and for such reasons, many people adopt lifestyles to ensure they stay healthy. It is for this reason that some people become extremely choosey with what they eat. Whereas some persons believe in regular exercise, others believe a reduction or elimination of carbohydrates is a better option. There are also those who do not eat meat otherwise known as vegetarians or its derivatives vegan. Vegetarianism/veganism is one of the oldest dietary options sought after for healthy living, protect animals and the environment. Research estimates that some 22% of the world’s population are vegetarians. In Africa, the concept is said to have emerged in 1894, and has existed for years in Ghana.
A 2019 review by Barnard et al, proved that plant-based diets may offer a number of cardiovascular health benefits for endurance, especially for athletes. After an initial unsuccessful attempt Zuu Gbedemah, a vegan was not ready to give up. Ayana Gregory, also encountered similar challenges, but in all they tell GBCGHANAOLINE that this is best decision of their lives.
“I tried it in 2018, so after like four days I said no let me go back to my chicken I can’t do it. I decided to do research on it because I’m a very curious person. I decided this time I will change slowly because when I did it in 2018, I did it over night. So I said this time let me take my time and I will just slowly remove the animal products from my diet. So January 2019, that is when I started. I stopped taking diary products, I think from there I moved to red meat and chicken. Then fish and egg. August 2019 I had removed everything, so that is when I started”
“My older siblings didn’t start out Vegetarians so when my father changed those rules all at once, they were rebelling. That trickled down to younger ones. I said wait a minute, what’s all this stuff that you all like. When my father wasn’t home, we will sneak and eat chicken and turkey. Even though I was trying to go against my father at times my body said this is what it wants. This is the way so eventually I returned to what I was born into”
The story of Marcus Garvey story is a little different, born to a vegan mother, the 27 years old gentleman is clueless of how meat tastes. Marcus has always been spoilt with choice and says being a vegan brings out his creativity.
“I feel amazing, I feel young every day. Everything I want to eat, I can re-create it. If I want a burger I can make a homemade veggie burger”
“You can reach out to the community and say how do you do this? What kind of options do you think I can eat. Don’t be afraid to just ask. We love to give answers” he added.
The use of vegan and vegetarian at some point in this report is what President of the Vegetarian Association of Ghana, Kolawole Briamah, wants a shift from.
“Once you start to label vegetarianism, vegan, ovu, it becomes a bit murky, because people feel its spiritual or its religious. So for us the aim is to encourage people to eat and live lifestyle to be healthy. The emphasis is on plant based and that is how now the concept is moving towards”
Is vegetarianism a symbol of affluence?
Vegetarianism unfortunately over the years has been perceived as being expensive or a preserve of the affluent. This assertion does not sit well with Mr. Braimah. For him it is the extra protein, meat, added to the shopping list which makes it look so. He says vegetarianism must be a way of life.
“it becomes expensive when you start to add the meat, fish, chicken. So you move to anything forty, fifty, sixty cedis because you’ve added fish, meat, chicken to it. In fact some people they try but because it’s not a way of life the food budget they have incorporated vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts. So they go and buy the vegetables it is sitting in their fridge or somewhere and will rot but they will add that to their food budget”
Zuu Gbedemah believes it is ignorance that make people to hold such thoughts.
“When I started I didn’t really know where to get what and so I will go to Osu, only for me one day to be walking in my area and I found out that there’s a vegan restaurant”
Busy work schedule is a reason services of food joints come in handy for non-vegetarians. But how easy is it for vegetarians to patronize the services of eateries. President of the Vegetarian Association of Ghana Kolawole, says this is not a problem at all. In fact I was taken to two of such. Although it was difficult to finish off rice balls I ordered on the menu, it was much easy to enjoy some vegetarian cookies at Sistah’s Vegan LTD, located at East Legon. Owner of Sistah’s Vegan, Patricia Ivey is convinced operating the eatery is more of a calling.
“it is an obligation to teach people and I am here to let people know that health is wealth not money not car not Gold not Diamond. Health because without a good heart some good kidneys some good liver you are not gonna make it. I think God said we should be good stewards.
Madam Ivey, became a vegan at 17 years, and after more than 40 years of life as a vegan she is much aware of how warm animals are to her.
“The cows, the goats, when they see me and they love me because guess what they know that mama is not coming with a fork or knife”
She tells GBCGHANAOLINE that every meal coming out of her kitchen is extremely nutritious and asked people to walk in for an unforgettable treat.
“We use a lot of black beans which is high in nutrition, we eat a lot of organic stuff like cocao. All these foods are called superfoods. Superfoods for a reason because they preserve lives. They are not expensive as a burger, they are not expensive as chicken”
Public view on vegetarianism.
GBCGHANAONLINE engaged a cross-section of the public on the subject and whether they would at some point desire to become vegetarians.
Jonathan, “I know they are people who actually live on vegetables and plants. They don’t eat anything that is animal related, because animals are also living things just like us and animals deserve the right to be kept alive. If you don’t eat animal flesh then why should you eat the animal. Some also don’t eat meat because biologically that’s the way.
Why should I become one? Now God said that everything he has created is good. And he has blessed everything. So if he created animals for us why should I go Vegetarian?”
Gift, “I know they don’t take certain aspects of food, thus protein, like fish, meat and egg.
Oooo!! “I wouldn’t like to become a vegetarian because I need the protein in me to develop well and have the shape I want”
Nana Kwame, these people don’t eat fish at all. They only eat beans in particular and other leaves. Their food is beans! beans! beans!
Oooo no oo! It’s like seeing a nice beautiful woman like you and saying I would want to go gay, seeing fish and you say you don’t like fish.
Dietician on health benefits of a vegetarian meal
Generally believed to be a healthy way of living, and for concerns such as Gift who wants an hourglass shape, a Registered Dietician Mariama Kane, was contacted. Madam Kane said a vegetarian diet helps in the prevention of lifestyle and cardiovascular diseases. She, however, encourages people to make that decision by seeking expert advice.
“It helps prevent a lot of lifestyle diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes. Aside from preventing these diseases, it helps you manage them if you already have it. Aside that too it helps you reduce your intake of saturated fats, reduce your intake of cholesterol, improves your fibre intake in general and even helps you keep your weight well managed”
She added “A Vegetarian diet is one of the healthy diet options out there. It’s very very beneficial, it’s good. But before you take that decision or that step to be vegan, you should take it under the supervision of a health professional, a doctor or a dietician. I say this because there are people who are already deficient of all or some of the nutrients that being a Vegetarian can make you further deficient of so you need to be guided.
The benefit of a vegetarian diet is perhaps the reason the John Hopkins University Centre for Communication Programme Ghana, has thrown its weight behind the vegetarian Association of Ghana in championing the Meatless Monday campaign for people to reduce meat intake. Saul Evans and Andrew Amenyo Okpatta spoke to GBCGHANAONLINE.
Saul Evans “Meatless Monday is quite simple it seeks to promote healthy eating and healthy lifestyles, especially on Mondays. Mondays we want to promote eating more plant based meals and cutting down on meat consumption”
Andrew Amenyo Okpattah “Its is a good initiative people are receiving it very and we will be happy if the whole of Ghana, actually buy into this and start practicing it because it will go a long way in helping not only your health but the environment”
President of the Vegetarian Association Kolawole Braimah, encourages the public to gradually make a shift to plant-based meals as way to prevent certain diseases.
“Why do you wait till you have a terminal case or kidney liver, colon related issue before they will ask you that you should incorporate more plant based when it is already too late. Reduce and ultimately eliminate if you can, so that you don’t even get sick in the first place”
For any person hearing about it for the first time, it may sound like a fairytale as to how they survive on only plant-based meals. However, that is what vegetarians believe in, as aptly captured in this popular cliché one man’s meat is another man’s poison. If it is said the food you eat today, builds your body tomorrow then with the numerous health benefits associated with plant-based meals it will not be out of place to incorporate it into one’s meals. Doing so will ensure the judicious use of scarce resources in the health sector and a healthy environment. It might not be an easy road, but with determination and the right professional counsel it maybe worth it.