SHARAN Newsletter - Issue #13 - December 2011


• Special Feature: Common Health Myths
• What you can do • Fact or Fiction? • Recipe • News from SHARAN •

Special Feature: Common Health Myths

There are many conflicting messages we receive with regard to food and nutrition. So much so that it can be difficult to make the right food choices. These daily choices affect our long-term health and well-being. Here we examine and de-bunk some of the most common misconceptions.

1. Meat and milk are the best sources of protein.
Where do you get your protein?’ This is probably the number one health myth and a question vegetarians and vegans have heard all too often. Though meat and milk are sources of protein, they are not the best sources. All meat (including fish and chicken) is high in fat and cholesterol. Also, like milk, meat is acid-yielding. Protein needs are easily met on a whole-food, plant-based diet and deficiencies are rare, except in the case of undernourishment. Beans, nuts and whole grains are all excellent sources of protein. The idea that meat and milk are needed for strength is a misconception. Many of the largest animals like elephants and horses are herbivores. Athletes find that their performance levels peak when they switch to a plant-based diet. Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis is a good example.

2. Milk is the best source of calcium.
Though milk does contain calcium, again it is not the best source. Milk is also high in fat and cholesterol and its high protein content is acid-yielding which means it actually leaches calcium out of the body. As a result, osteoporosis is prevalent in countries with a high consumption of milk. Plant foods like dark green leafy vegetables and sesame seeds are far superior sources of calcium. For an idea of the calcium content of different foods, refer to this chart. Studies have revealed that exercise and a diet rich in vegetables ensures strong bones – not dairy foods. The fact that many people are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk reveals that animal milk is not a natural food for humans.

3. Carbohydratess cause weight gain.
Carbohydrates have received a lot of bad press in recent years because of the popularity of diets recommending a low intake of carbs. Carbohydrates provide the body with necessary fuel. Whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains are complex carbohydrates which the body converts into energy. They also have no cholesterol and are low in fat, and do not cause weight gain as some believe. Processed foods however, should be avoided as they often contain simple carbohydrates which have little nutritional value.

4. Diseases like diabetes and heart disease are hereditary.
While some diseases do ‘run in the family’ this does not mean they cannot be prevented. Bad food habits are also often inherited. By making healthy food choices, many diseases, including diabetes and heart disease can be prevented, healed and reversed. Many doctors advocate a plant-based diet to prevent and reverse such diseases. For more information, see Dr Neal Barnard’s website on Reversing Diabetes and Dr Caldwell B. Esselstyn's website on Reversing Heart Disease.

5. Vegan diets are inadequate.
Vegan diets are made up of plant-based foods which do not include any animal products, including meat, milk, dairy products or even honey. A diet rich in plant-based foods which also includes whole foods largely provides almost everything needed for optimum health. It is extremely high in phytonutrients, anti-oxidants and vitamins essential for good health. The only thing which may be lacking in a vegan diet is Vitamin B12 which is produced only by the bacteria of decaying animal matter. B12 is an important vitamin which can be easily supplemented. To learn about about Vitamin B12, visit this page.

There are many reasons why these myths persist:
- Advice which gets passed on from one generation to the next is often not questioned. Our thinking can get conditioned to the extent that a lie repeated often enough takes the form of truth in our minds. ‘Everyone is doing it’, so we easily accept the status quo.
- Doctors do not have adequate training in nutrition and are victims of the same health myths as the rest of us. Patients tend to trust the authority of their doctors.
- The media often publish nutritional information which is incorrect. People tend to believe something if it is in print or reported on television.
- Food lobbies are very powerful and publish messages which serve to ‘sell’ their products.

What you can do

Learn how to be a discerning reader and judge of facts.
Beware of recommendations which are made to promote and sell a product. When researching study results, check which interest groups funded it. Look for studies based on independent unbiased research which are more likely to provide trustworthy conclusions.

Challenge wrong facts published in the media.
If you come across facts about nutrition which are incorrect or deceiving, make an effort to put the facts straight. Write a letter to the editor, for example, quoting independent, peer-reviewed studies if possible.

Try vegan.
If you’re sceptical about the health advantages of a vegan diet, try it for 30 days and see for yourself. You may be surprised that it’s easier than you thought and by how good you’ll feel. The recipes section on the SHARAN website offers many tasty and healthy vegan dishes to discover. Once you see and feel the positive effects of a healthy and compassionate lifestyle, you may never go back!

Fact or Fiction?

All oils are unhealthy.


All oils are high in fat and calories. They contain few nutrients, vitamins or minerals and are devoid of fibre. They are essentially empty calories and should be avoided as much as possible. Some oils like olive, canola and coconut oils are promoted as ‘healthy’ oils. These too are 100% fat and contain too many calories and few nutrients.

The body does need some fats, of course, but the best sources are whole foods like nuts, seeds, beans and foods like avocados, olives and coconuts.

Avoiding animal protein and fat, and consuming whole foods helps the body to protect itself from diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy weight.


Zucchini Rolls with Cashew Cheese and Marinara Sauce

This recipe was a hit during Lisa Pitman’s 'Heating Without Eating' raw food workshops held in several cities across India last month.

2 zucchinis sliced thin, lengthwise

For the Cashew Cheese:
2 cups cashews
¾ to 1 cup water
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp fresh, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 ½ tsp nutritional yeast

In a blender, combine the water (start with ¾ but add more if needed) and the cashews. Blend until very smooth. Place in a jar or bowl, covered in a clean towel and let sit in a warm place overnight.

Transfer the cashew cheese to a mixing bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients.

For the Marinara Sauce:
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked 1 hour, drained
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
½ shallot, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
½ red pepper, seeded and chopped
½ tsp oregano

Process the sauce in a food processor until smooth.

1. On each plate lay out three strips of zucchini – slightly overlapping each one.
2. Add 2 tbsp of cashew cheese across the bottom edge of the zucchini.
3. Roll the edge of the zucchini up and over the cashew cheese and continue to roll the length of the zucchini strips.
4. Spoon some marinara sauce onto the plate and place the zucchini roll on top.

(Image courtesy of Veganosaurus)

News from SHARAN

During the month of November, SHARAN had invited Lisa Pitman, a vegan chef from Canada, to India for a series of classes and workshops. Lisa shared her infectious enthusiasm and delicious raw food recipes with participants in Auroville, Bangalore, Gokarna, Mumbai and Delhi. You can read about Lisa’s India trip on her blog, Vegan Culinary Crusade. Lisa was also featured widely in the India press. Have a look at the following links:
The Hindu, Bangalore
Indian Express, Chennai
Air India magazine
Bangalore Mirror
Mumbai Mirror

Dr Nandita Shah’s popular Peas vs Pills workshops help people who want to follow a healthy and compassionate lifestyle to make smart food choices. With the right foods, the body can protect and heal itself.

Learn how to prevent and heal many ailments and diseases by joining one of the upcoming workshops in Auroville. For more details, click here.



SHARAN announces 3 special Training Programmes for people who would like to learn how to help others make lifestyle changes. These are designed for three different groups: medical professionals, those who want to learn how to cook healthy food, and people who would like to train as lifestyle advisors.

For more information, check this link.



Do you suffer from hypertension, diabetes or other diseases and ailments? Would you like to take charge of your health and make a change for the better? From 3 to 24 June 2012 SHARAN is offering a special 21-day Diabetes and Hypertension and other Disease Reversal Holiday at SwaSwara. This follows on the success of a similar retreat held in June this year.

SwaSwara is a beautiful eco-resort located on Om Beach near Gokarna on the coast of Karnataka. For more information about this unique retreat, visit this page.

A list of all of SHARAN’s coming events upto June 2012 is available here


Mumbai now has a healthy vegan tiffin service! Vegan Bites is there to help you eat healthy, even at the office. Their team of chefs prepare a special menu of plant-based whole foods which are not only healthy but delicous. Contact them to have your healthy vegan meal delivered fresh to your doorstep by Mumbai's famous dhabbawallahs. See this link for more information on Vegan Bites. Or visit the Vegan Bites Facebook page here.


Would you like to meet vegans living in your area and learn about a vegan lifestyle? Regular vegan potlucks are held in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi and are open to everyone: vegans, aspiring vegans, vegetarians or anyone interested in learning more about veganism.

Get in touch with Mumbai Vegans here and Delhi Vegans at this link. Visit the Vegan Bengaluru blog to find out more about the Bangalore potlucks.

The SHARAN photo album features pictures of all our past events. Those who have attended our events may enjoy seeing pictures of themselves and the group. (Click on the image to get an enlarged version.)

Did you miss past issues of this newsletter? Have a look at the SHARAN newsletter archives.

The Reversing Diabetes Facebook Group is for people who would like to learn about and exchange information on how a healthy plant-based whole foods diet can help reverse diabetes. Members share tips and their own experiences of how they have been able to control and reverse diabetes through the food they eat. Click here to join the group.

Join SHARAN India on Facebook to find out about upcoming events, join in discussions and share experiences, and meet other like-minded people!

SHARAN India is now on Twitter. Click here to follow us!

What is SHARAN?

We are a non-profit organization with the goals of spreading holistic health awareness, and an ecologically sustainable compassionate lifestyle. We believe that all life on the planet is interconnected. By reconnecting we can heal ourselves and our earth.

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© 2011 SHARAN