At the India Today Conclave 2021, actors Genelia Deshmukh and Riteish Deshmukh, who are also founders of Imagine Meats – a company that manufactures plant-based meat products – spoke about the importance of following a plant-based diet.
James Wilks, vegan activist and former professional mixed martial artist, also joined in the conversation. He starred in the 2018 documentary The Game Changers which promotes a plant-based diet.
During their session titled ‘Gut Reaction: Why I changed my protein. And got a miracle body’ on October 9, Riteish said, “I was an absolute carnivore five years ago. I quit non-vegetarian but my craving did not go. We were fortunate to taste plant-based meat in America. Genelia got these burgers home and it was plant-based. India is not a burger-eating nation.”
Speaking of their venture, Genelia added, “It’s all from plants. So there are various proteins. It’s science with plants that give you the taste of meat. Everyone likes their meat but its not like you want to harm the environment. It’s just that taste and texture of meat. If you are getting the exact same thing with your plants, you don’t have any reason to complain. We got that option in America.”
“Our motive is to provide options. Food-tech today is just on another level and it will keep growing. It’s just an emerging market and we are in a phase where we can change our planet one bite at a time,” Genelia said.
Asked about following a plant-based diet, James said, “I realised that animals are just the middlemen. They are basically doing us a disservice. Protein originates in plants. Animals just consume the protein and are adding sacrilege fat. So, when you are eating the meat, you should just cut out the middleman and go straight to the source.”
Did Riteish and Genelia face pushbacks while convincing people about following a plant-based diet?
“Initially, yes. I have grown up drinking milk and having eggs every day. Till you don’t experience, it will become difficult. When I saw The Game Changers, we understood that we are on the right path. It’s easy to convince people,” Riteish said.
“It’s been proven time and again that meat isn’t great for your health and environment. I feel that everybody wants to do it. My kids are vegan. They run 15-16 kms at a stretch. When I look at them and at everyone else, we have seen the change. When you see things changing for the better, you want to share it with everybody. India comes from a place of being guilty non-vegetarian eaters. While I was vegetarian, I did not think about the whole animal welfare concept. The younger generations are conscious eaters,” Genelia added.
If you follow a plant-based diet, will you see the changes in your body?
“If you are overweight, you will notice the changes. I switched within six weeks and my strength went up considerably. Within six weeks, I was already lean. It is the number one thing that you can do for the environment,” James said.
Has the pandemic provided a huge spike in the interest of following a plant-based diet?
“Yes, it has. The kind of numbers that we see with regards to plant-based companies, the growth has increased. We might be floating around convincing people, but the change is coming and it is going to hit India really soon,” Riteish said.
“If someone has changed from a non-vegetarian diet to a vegan one, like I have, I feel great about it. All these things are acknowledgment that plant-based diets really work. Your protein intake is the same as meat. There is zero cholesterol. It is a win-win situation. Trying it out will make you feel the difference,” Genelia added.