The problem of going vegan: why I’m placing engineered meals on my plate


Our journalist Sara Ibrahim has switched to a plant-based food plan. The transition was not all the time simple and required a great deal of creativeness within the kitchen. Nevertheless, there are lots of plant-based options accessible. And there’s no scarcity of authentic and attractive recipes. Helen James / swissinfo.ch

It’s comparatively simple to undertake a food plan low in animal merchandise in Switzerland. The nation boasts a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan eateries and meals retailers, and the marketplace for plant-based options to meat, cheese and fish is booming. But our reporter’s transition to a extra sustainable food plan went much less easily than anticipated.

This content material was revealed on June 21, 2022 – 09:00

Helen James (illustrations)

The choice to eradicate animal protein virtually fully from my life got here out of the blue in January 2021. I had simply survived a Christmas filled with Chinese language fondue, sausages and mascarpone cream and wished to atone for my gluttony.

Studying books on the meals trade, practising yoga and residing by a pandemic had opened my eyes to the affect that meals has on the atmosphere, our well being and animal welfare. With the beginning of Veganuary, the month-long vegan problem wherein greater than two million individuals have participated since 2014, I had one other good purpose to stay to my New 12 months’s decision.

As a real Italian, I’ve all the time eaten for pleasure as a lot as for sustenance. Meals performs a central function in my each day and social life. Consuming nicely is not less than as vital as studying a very good e-book, having shut mates and dressing tastefully. In brief, to eat nicely is to dwell nicely.

From an early age, nonetheless, I’ve all the time recognized that meals is a double-edged sword: it may possibly make us really feel superb, but in addition very, very dangerous. A slightly disastrous household well being historical past wealthy in instances of diabetes, weight problems, hypertension and cardiovascular issues made me realise early on that meals is each a blessing and a curse.

That is why my mom was all the time obsessive about wholesome cooking. She would drone on in regards to the useful properties of what we had been consuming whereas we sat for dinner: the polyphenols in cinnamon to decrease blood sugar, the curcumin in turmeric to maintain weight beneath management or the sulforaphane in cruciferous greens as a remedy for each ailment.

As she delivered her lecture, my brothers and I’d have a look at one another and grin, making an attempt to not get seen as we discarded these bitter Brussels sprouts or the spicy rocket salad from our plates.

Regardless of this, animal protein featured each day on our menu. All through my childhood nobody in my household ever talked in regards to the affect that our diets had on the atmosphere or on animals. And that is how I grew up: ignoring – or desirous to ignore – the results of my meals decisions.

The meals of the long run: how know-how is altering what we eat

Local weather change, pandemics, wars, and inhabitants progress: the occasions of our instances are forcing us to alter the way in which we eat. Shoppers in Switzerland and world wide are more and more turning to extra sustainable choices. Because of meals engineering, it’s now attainable to alter our life with out giving up the dishes we love. Switzerland is in a very good place to drive this alteration: its robust meals trade and cutting-edge start-ups are already main the way in which in fields corresponding to sustainable protein analysis and precision agriculture. On this new collection, readers will accompany a SWI swissinfo.ch a journalist as she discovers a few of the most progressive and attention-grabbing meals applied sciences in Switzerland.

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Vegetarian’s paradise

My transition to veganism began out surprisingly nicely. Switzerland might be the house of Gruyère cheese, cured meat and cervelat, the everyday Swiss sausage. However on grocery store cabinets – from low cost retailers to natural retailers – you will discover engaging options to the preferred animal-based meals: soya cutlet, peanut brie and even carrot salmon.

Over the previous 5 years, innovation within the meals sector has allowed a large enlargement within the vary of recent meals match for each palate and in sustainable options. In actual fact, there are such a lot of merchandise accessible that I haven’t managed to attempt all of them but.

The marketplace for various proteins is rising quick: globally, it’s value over $50 billion (CHF50 billion) at the moment and will exceed $150 billionExterior hyperlink by 2027. In comparison with the meat trade, the place figures are anticipated to climb from $838.3 billion (2020 determine) to $1,157.6 billion by 2025, the choice meals sector remains to be a distinct segment market. However the projected progress means that dietary habits are positively altering.


Hen wings constituted of soya beans and chickpeas could quickly be accessible. Swiss big Nestlé has invested thousands and thousands of {dollars} on this vegetable meals know-how. Keystone / Cyril Zingaro

In Switzerland, the sale of meat substitutes has almost doubled since 2016. Multiple in 4 individuals sayExterior hyperlink that they often eat plant-based options to meat, milk and cheese. Many individuals, like me, have already modified their consuming habits by switching to a vegetarian or vegan food plan. In line with a Swiss surveyExterior hyperlink, round 4% of these polled described themselves as vegetarians. Apparently, solely 0.2% of males stated that they adopted a vegan life-style, whereas for girls this determine stood at 1%. 

Normally, statistics present that it’s primarily younger individuals, these with larger schooling and well-off households who go for a plant-based food plan. In rich cities, due to this fact, the choices are limitless – in Bern, the place I dwell, vegetarian and vegan meals could be discovered virtually in every single place, even at road meals stalls.  

In Zurich, the nation’s wealthiest metropolis and the birthplace in 1898 of the world’s first vegetarian restaurant, Hiltl, vegans and vegetarians are spoiled for selection. In any case, Switzerland has one of many highest densities of vegetarian eating places in Europe. Different European havens for vegetarians are Britain, Germany and Sweden.   

I have to admit that in the first place I missed the style and texture of meat, and particularly fish, of which I’m notably fond. Typically I’d even dream about them at night time. However having made reflections on the ethics and sustainability of the meals I used to eat and given the big selection of plant-based merchandise on supply, I made a decision to increase my Veganuary past one month. I didn’t wish to hand over. 

I additionally turned extra inventive within the kitchen, studying to arrange scrumptious plant-based variations of the numerous dishes I really like: lentil ragu, Genoese pesto with basil, edamame and dietary yeast (rather than Parmesan), and spaghetti carbonara with chickpea flour and smoked soya. My pores and skin took on a smoother and brighter sheen and my hair grew softer and glossier. What extra might I would like? 

Looking for the best food plan 

However after following a vegan food plan for a number of months, one thing went flawed. I used to be coaching exhausting for a marathon and was apprehensive by the onset of large dips in vitality. I typically felt dizzy from tiredness and starvation, virtually as if I had been drunk. This had by no means occurred to me earlier than. Was the vegan food plan actually as wholesome and good for me as I’d thought? Or was I doing one thing flawed? To shake off my doubts, I contacted Alexander Mathys, who runs the sustainable meals processing laboratory on the federal know-how institute ETH Zurich. 

After we first spoke, Mathys was brimming with concepts and details about the sustainability and well being advantages of assorted diets, a topic he’s usually discussing together with his colleagues. In a single examineExterior hyperlink, Mathys and his analysis group in contrast various kinds of diets from environmental, dietary, financial and well being views.  

In line with their findings, the vegan food plan is probably the most environmentally sustainable however is poor in sure vitamins, corresponding to vitamin B12, choline and calcium. “If we think about all of the micro- and macronutrients that our our bodies want, the vegan food plan just isn’t one of the best,” stated Mathys.  

The best food plan, the examine confirmed, entails a large discount within the consumption of meat and vegetable oils. We also needs to eat fewer cereals, tubers and fish merchandise, and eat extra legumes, nuts, seeds, vegatables and fruits every day. 

After speaking to Mathys and consulting a nutritionist, I realised that so as to really feel higher I wanted to extend my consumption of vegetable proteins (as an example, by including soy milk to my breakfast) and all the time have some nuts with me to snack on between meals or on the go. By doing this, I used to be capable of preserve the starvation pangs at bay and received my previous vitality again. In the long run, I efficiently ran the marathon.  

Laura Nyström, a meals biochemist at ETH Zurich, confirmed that it’s attainable to observe a balanced vegan food plan that advantages the physique. Plant-based merchandise usually include legumes and cereals and are due to this fact wealthy in fibre, which is vital for regulating intestinal capabilities in addition to sugar and fats consumption.  

“I’m positive {that a} vegan food plan could be full,” stated Nyström. “However it requires a variety of planning, and never everybody has time to consider their meals prematurely.” In different phrases, a vegan food plan just isn’t for everybody.  

After a variety of trial and error, I’ve lastly discovered my splendid food plan: primarily vegan at dwelling and vegetarian outdoors the house, with a couple of exceptions over the yr for fish and, extra not often, meat. However with one golden rule: it’s best to typically give in to an indulgence and never really feel responsible about it.   

How know-how is shaping the way forward for meals 

Though I loved the lentil ragu and different vegan recipes I’d mastered, nostalgia for the dishes I had eaten my complete life, corresponding to hen breasts in milk and veal Milanese, prompted me to discover the Swiss meals know-how scene extra intently. I wished to see if it actually was attainable to observe a plant-based food plan with out having to forgo the flavours of my childhood. 

I discover the thought of reproducing the feel, look and style of meat and different meals within the laboratory fairly fascinating, but in addition a little bit disturbing. I wished to know who these “mad scientists” are which are spearheading the transformation of culinary tradition in Switzerland, and expertise their creations, chew by chew. So I went out to fulfill them. 

Come and be a part of me on this journey in my new collection on the meals of the long run. 

To contact me or touch upon this text, you possibly can e-mailExterior hyperlink me. 

Comply with me on TwitterExternal link 

Translated from Italian by Julia Bassam/gw 

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI requirements

Extra: SWI swissinfo.ch licensed by the Journalism Belief Initiative


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