In Times of COVID-19, Should I go Vegan?

After hearing today that New York’s tigers and six other wild cats had contracted the SARS-CoV2 virus from their asymptomatic zookeeper, this prompted me to wonder that if COVID-19 is quite rabid when passing from human-to-human, can it also pass from human - to - livestock? After all, the COVID-19 was claimed to originally pass from bat - to - wildlife - to - human at the wet market in Wuhan.

I think there is a real possibility, but at this present moment, Government and experts tell us that to date,

“COVID-19 has not been reported in livestock, domestic animals or wildlife in Australia”, and that further “studies are needed to understand if different animals could be affected by the virus”.

To be pro-active, and whilst the vaccine is yet to eventuate, I have taken this opportunity during home isolation, to slowly transition my family to a plant-based diet by substituting one meal in their day for a dairy free, plant based meal. Having been vegetarian for almost a year, it’s easy for me to transition, but will be difficult for some members who love their meats. Therefore going exclusively plant-based immediately will not be a peaceful option. As a result, my plan is to go slowly, asking their agreement to replace breakfast as a plant-based meal, then in two weeks’ time, move to a lunch replacement, and slowly henceforth with more plant based replacement meals.

Just like home isolation, social distancing, not touching one’s face, and hand-washing for 20 seconds, it is difficult at first. Starting something new takes so much time out of our day, causes a lot of inconvenience and confusion, and is easy to abandon for peace sake. However persistence with building such habits for the safety to ourselves, our loved ones and our immediate community can help us in the long run.

Yummy Vegan Eggplant Schnitzel with HapiSoy's Blueberry Yoghurt

Image - Vegan Eggplant Schnitzel Sandwich

Recipe: Layer on toasted sliced bread, fried eggplant schnitzel (sliced eggplant pan fried in olive oil) with thickly sliced tomato, fresh rocket, and lathered with a creamy dollop of mustard sauce (made with 3 tsp of HapiSoy natural yoghurt mixed with 1/4 tsp of English Mustard). Complete meal with a HapiSoy Blueberry Yoghurt and a glass of wine

Therefore in my endeavour to help anyone who is looking to slowly transition towards a plant-based diet, I’d like you to be mindful of these 3 things :

1. Transition Slowly

One way, is to look at the breakfast or lunch meals that you like to eat, and replace that with dairy free, plant based substitutes. Whether that is a chicken schnitzel sandwich replaced with an eggplant schnitzel sandwich, or a dairy yoghurt bowl with muesli replaced with a dairy-free yoghurt bowl with muesli. Go one step at a time and slowly move towards making the main meal of your day plant-based. For recipe ideas, BBC Good Food, Taste, Jamie Oliver and many other websites will give you plenty of guidance for your next plant-based curry, stir-fries, soups and pasta sauces. Just be sure to substitute meats with vegetables, legumes and tofu. Furthermore, look around in your local grocery store as there is now a wide range of plant-based alternatives and substitutes for yoghurt, eggs, meats and honey that can expand your culinary possibilities.

2. Maintain your proteins by adding at least one of these 10 plant-based protein sources into the cooking of your meal

3. Nutritional experts recommend supplementing your diet with these 7 essential vitamins and minerals:

1) Vitamin B12 – too little vitamin B12 can lead to anaemia and nervous system damage, as well as infertility, bone and heart disease. Natural sources of vitamin B12 come from mushrooms, nori, green leafy vegetables and nutritional yeast. The recommended daily intake is 2.4 mcg per day for adults, but it is advisable for people on exclusive vegan diets to take B12 supplements.

2) Vitamin D – is a fat soluble vitamin that helps enhance the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from your gut. This vitamin influences immune function, mood, memory and muscle recovery. Alternatively, spending 15 minutes with your skin exposed to the midday sun without any sunscreen is another way of ensuring your body is making the vitamin D.

3) Long-Chain Omega-3s - play an important role in the structure of your brain and eyes. Plants with the essential omega-3 fatty acids include flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds and soybeans. Vegans can supplement with algae oil, or omnivores can eat fatty fish and fish oil to supplement their long-chain omega-3 acids.

4) Iodine - is necessary for a healthy thyroid function, which controls your metabolism. Lack of iodine can cause low energy levels, dry skin, tingling in your hands and feet, forgetfulness, depression and weight gain. ½ teaspoon of iodised salt is sufficient to meet your daily needs.

5) Calcium - is necessary for good bone and teeth health, and plays a role in muscle function, nerve signalling and heart health. Plant-based sources of calcium come from bok choy, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, broccoli, calcium-set tofu and fortified plant milks or juices. The recommended daily intake is 1000 mg per day for adults.

6) Iron - is a nutrient necessary for making DNA, red blood cells, carrying oxygen in the blood, and for energy metabolism. Too little iron can lead to anaemia, fatigue and decreased immune function. Plant sources of iron can come from cruciferous vegetables, such as beans, peas, dried fruits, nuts and seeds. However plant based iron sources are not easily absorbed by the body as animal-sources of iron, and therefore any iron deficiency requires testing and monitoring by your GP and their advice on appropriate iron supplementation.

7) Zinc - is a mineral that’s necessary for metabolism, immune function and the repair of body cells. Soaking nuts, seeds, and legumes overnight, eating protein and consuming fermented foods such as yoghurts, kimchi, miso, can help boost absorption.

My final message is to take a measured approach for what you and your family can cope with during these stressful times of home isolation. Transition slowly by substituting one meal per day or even a week with a meal that is totally plant-based. Be kind to yourself and give rewards for your efforts. Furthermore ALWAYS check with your healthcare professional if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking other medications before taking vitamin supplements.


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