“Change happens through education,” says Indian actress Mallika Sherawat, who believes a plant-based diet could help fight India’s diabetes and heart disease epidemics. That’s why she’s supporting a Barnard Medical Center and Physicians Committee tour of 11 medical schools in India, where students are learning how to use the power of a plant-based diet to help patients fight obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
The tour, led by Zeeshan Ali, Ph.D., Physicians Committee Kickstart India specialist, and James Loomis, M.D., M.B.A., Barnard Medical Center medical director, includes information on the Physicians Committee’s new Nutrition Guide for Clinicians app; evidence-based lectures; and plant-based meals and resources for students.
Below, Sherawat, who is featured on two Physicians Committee billboards in Mumbai, answers questions on why she follows a vegan diet and how a vegan diet could help keep India fit and healthy.
Why are you supporting the Physicians Committee’s medical school tour?
I support the tour because I’m a vegan, and I believe in spreading the message of the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Change happens through education. Teaching medical students across India about the benefits of a plant-based diet is the first step in changing dietary habits in India. India is set to emerge as the youngest nation in the world by 2020, so we need a fit and healthy India.
How can diabetes and heart disease rates be reduced in India?
There is a diabetes epidemic in India—More than 72 million Indians have diabetes! Diabetes and heart disease rates can be brought down in India by educating people about the innumerable benefits of switching to a plant-based diet and moderate exercise. A vegan diet can help prevent plaque build-up in the blood vessels and lower the risk of heart disease. Make conscious food choices, and stay away from processed foods, meat, dairy products, and sugar. Incorporate lots of leafy green vegetables and seasonal organic fruit in your diet.
Why do you follow a plant-based diet?
I follow a plant-based diet to boost my energy during long working hours. I’ve never felt better in my life—both physically and emotionally.
What is your favorite vegan food?
My favorite vegan food is a big bowl of salad with lots of organic leafy green vegetables and avocados along with a bowl of steamed quinoa.