Why Vegan eKasi?
The Relevance of the Plant-based Diet in the Townships
Why Vegan eKasi?
The Relevance of the Plant-based Diet in the Townships
We’ve all heard of the crazy people that don’t eat meat, right? Yes…? Maybe not? Well, whether you have or not, they exist. But why do they avoid eating meat? Does it make them sick? Are they allergic?
Shame man, poor beings…
There are actually various reasons. This World Vegan Day and Month we plan to inform you about the benefits of this fast-growing lifestyle called Veganism. But first things first:
What is Vegan Day?
1 November is a day dedicated to vegans. Vegan is a modern term used to describe someone who does not eat meat and animal by-products. This includes eggs, fish and dairy products. In our communities today,
should people find out that you don’t eat those, more than likely, they will ask: “Yho! What do you eat?” Well, Vegans eat vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts and by-products of these things.
People decide to abstain from the use of these things because it is healthier for the body, the environment and it doesn’t inflict harm on animals. November is Vegan Month. This Month is celebrated by:
- Raising awareness about the vegan lifestyle
- Recognising the progress of the movement and how accessible and beneficial it is
It is also celebrated by sharing knowledge about the lifestyle, recipes, ideas and vegan events across the world.
You’re probably asking yourself, but why must this movement have its own day and month? What’s so special about it?
We’re glad you asked. As mentioned above, the vegan lifestyle has proven to be the most beneficial for the health of humans, animals and the environment. In fact, it is promoted by the United Nations (UN) as a vehicle to end world hunger and reduce the impact of climate change.
“Medical research shows conclusively that a plant-based diet reduces chronic disease risk, so that’s something I absolutely encourage my patients to move toward.”
Milton Mills, MD
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also promotes the eating of a plant-based vegan diet as a preventative measure for Non-Communicable Diseases (aka Lifestyle Diseases). Lifestyle diseases are responsible for more than 84% of premature deaths in the world yearly. These diseases include: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, gout, high blood pressure and more.
As beneficial as the vegan diet may be, it is unfortunately not a conventional and popular way of life. You find that in some areas in South Africa, they do not even know what a vegan is. If they know, they do not think it is healthy or that they would ever go vegan. This is simply because veganism is not promoted on mainstream media, schools or by government initiatives. Those deal rather with curative measures for sickness, whereas veganism deals with preventive health measures.
So, therefore people don’t know much about it. Which is why Vegan eKasi is here.
What is Vegan eKasi?
Vegan eKasi is a blog hosted by my husband (Yahav) and I, Shaiyah. We’re a couple based in Durban, KwaZulu Natal. We were born and raised in two of the largest locations (townships) in South Africa, namely; uMlazi (Durban, KZN), and Motherwell (Port Elizabeth, EC).
This idea came about because we want to inspire more people eKasi (in the townships) to explore the vegan lifestyle and share in its many health benefits.
Part of the reason for this site is that when I made my change, I did not know any vegans in my neighbourhood. So, it was a lonely and trying journey. On top of that, I had to suffer the side-effects of being vegan (misconceptions). This is because very few people in the townships understand what a vegan is and why one chooses to abstain from eating meat and animal by-products.
The Misconceptions (The Side-Effects of Being Vegan)
- In the townships if you don’t eat meat:
- You’re a Rastafarian!
- Eating salads is eating “white people food” or “rabbit/goat food”
- A meal is not considered complete and satisfying without meat.
- Constant eating of vegetables and beans without meat, is a sign of low-income status (you must be going through a rough patch financially). While eating meat daily is a sign of high-income status.
- A man must eat meat (because “meat makes you strong”) “What kind of a man doesn’t eat meat?”
- The word “diet” only means one starves themselves for a certain amount of time to lose weight. They get back to their old eating habits once that goal is achieved.
- Vegans and vegetarians are malnourished, weak and brittle. They don’t get enough nutrients and most importantly the favourite… Yep you guessed it right — Protein. Some people even go so far as saying that your children will be weak (even when they see that you are not weak).
Of course, all these are false perceptions based on the popular myths from the meat and dairy industries and cultural constructs. We too grew up with these perceptions and there was nobody close to correct and guide our thinking. As a matter of fact, health was the least of our concerns (at least until somebody comes and says they don’t eat meat).
Perhaps, we thought there were different types of “healthy,” because we didn’t think we were unhealthy or that the food we ate had a negative effect on our well-being. Most people eKasi think they are healthy as long they don’t lay flat sick in bed (which happens, eventually).
We thought that the lifestyle diseases we witnessed in our communities were normal stages of growing up and aging.
Lifestyle Diseases and Food Choices: What’s the Connection
At the end of each month, it’s a norm to see people with buckets of popular fried chicken, grilled steaks and cheese-laden pizzas/burgers.
As children, we would dream of growing up and being more financially stable, so that we could eat pizza and fried chicken anytime we want and not only month end. Sure enough, these days as we become more financially-abled, more and more of us are doing it.
We pack those buckets on a daily basis. Western lifestyle habits have effectively become the norm. We consume fast (junk) foods as some sort of reward to “spoil” ourselves and families more often than before. Believe me, this was our dream as well (and still is for most children eKasi).
This, friends, is one of the reasons why our communities are so plagued by these seemingly irreversible lifestyle diseases, a.k.a. “diseases of choice.” They are called such because they are a result of the choices we make daily in what we put in our bodies by way of eating and drinking.
The western diet is the mother of non-communicable diseases. Also, other habits like smoking, incorrect sleeping patterns, bodily activity/inactivity play a part. But the diet is a major cause. More than enough medical research studies have shown that the eating of meat and animal-products is the leading cause of diabetes, high blood pressure, hyper-acidity, heart disease, etc.
Before many traditional African and Asian societies adopted the Western way of eating, they had little to none of these illnesses.
The Facts in the Stats
According to the 2016 Mortality and Causes of Death in South Africa report released in April 2018, 57.4% of deaths in the country were due to lifestyle diseases. It also revealed that diabetes, various forms of heart disease like stroke and cancer were among the top 10 causes of deaths.
Diabetes coming in at number 2, affecting more women than men (because more women are overweight in comparison to men). South Africa is the leading country in Africa when it comes to diabetes. A major study on diabetes conducted by the Non-Communicable Diseases Research Unit based in Tygerberg Hospital, found that 2.3 million people in South Africa were diabetic.
Lead author of the study Professor Andre Kenge and director of the Unit said: “This used to be an adult condition and now it is not uncommon to see it in 15-year olds.” What makes this even worse, as the study also mentions, is that most people don’t even know that they have the disease.
Prevention and Control
If we are to ever change these conditions eKasi and eMzansi in general, a shift of focus to a plant-based vegan diet is a must. According to Dr. Milton Mills, a renowned critical care physician focusing on preventive medicine, “Medical research shows conclusively that a plant-based diet reduces chronic disease risk, so that’s something I absolutely encourage my patients to move toward.”
Of-course this is not the only area of focus, but a major and more efficient one. We’re not saying throw away your medication.
This blog is here to offer you practical information on the simple but healthy changes you can make today without breaking the bank. Or should I say without breaking your health?
It’s high time now that you must pay attention and begin to put more focus on what you put on your plate. Add more colourful plant foods, exercise at least three times a week until you sweat (this could even be just a walk) and try your best to keep a clean environment. We know that what other people do (and pollutants) around us also affects our well-being but focus on what you can do for yourself now.
Also, regular check-ups in your local clinic help so that you know where you stand health wise.
If we are to get a different result, we must make different decisions.
So, keep a look out on our social media pages and this blog for more health tips and blog posts to help equip you for the journey to reclaiming your health.
We have so much more to share with you. We are here to make health easy and enjoyable again. We did it before, we can certainly do it now as well, and take it even beyond conventional medical expectations.