The market is ripe for gourmet vegetarian and vegan meals as more and more people make the move towards eating less or no meat.

Durban - The market is ripe for gourmet vegetarian and vegan meals as more and more people make the move towards eating less or no meat.

Even professional sportspeople are re-evaluating their meal plans in favour of veggies.

“It’s time you became part of this food revolution,” says Dr Paul Palmer, a chiropractor and lifestyle and weight-loss coach in Durban North.

Having treated hundreds of patients for musculo-skeletal problems, Palmer said he researched further into the latest studies on health issues and found that nutrition played a huge role in the physical manifestation of health problems.

“We’ve all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’, and this is a literal statement. Over a few years all our cells are replaced with new ones and those new cells are literally made of the food we eat. We need to be conscious of what we are putting into our bodies and how it is affecting us,” he said.

Palmer said many published studies showed that a plant-based diet provided a better quality of life and fewer health problems.

“Studies show that a diet high in meat, dairy and fats contributes to many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer. The way in which these foods contribute to disease needs to be better understood by everyone, not only doctors, in order for us make educated decisions about our own health,” said Palmer.

Palmer said research had shown that low-fat, plant-based diets can be used as a treatment for heart disease.

“There is no cholesterol in plant foods that the body can absorb because phytosterols in plants are not absorbed by our intestines. Our bodies naturally produce all the cholesterol we need so all cholesterol that comes from animal products is unnecessary and a huge contributor to heart disease.

“Do we know what goes into the burger we tuck in to, and are we conscious of how the foods we choose to eat impact on our bodies?” he asked.

For many, the answer to his question is no.

Palmer recommends phasing in to your diet more plant-based foods and limiting or abstaining from animal products.

“I am very passionate about this topic, and I run wellness workshops to educate people about it.

“I feel that when people seek a doctor’s diagnosis on a medical problem, the patient’s nutrition also needs to be taken into consideration before administering any medication. Doctors are trained to dispense medication for a health problem, but in many cases changing your diet will have a greater impact,” said Palmer.

“Imagine if we could heal ourselves with what we eat – we would save so much money. In the US, data shows that one of the biggest reasons for personal bankruptcy, especially in older people, is healthcare, but if we eat correctly and understand why these eating habits are the most beneficial to our health, we will be on track to sustainable health.”

Richard Kelly, a director at Fry’s Foods in Pinetown, who make meat-free, vegan and vegetarian foods, said there was a move towards healthy eating, which involved eating plant-based foods.

“We are very proud of our products that are dairy and GMO-free. It’s the same foods we eat, so we know the quality has to set the highest standards,” said Kelly.

He said that the company has been asked to consult on meal plans for sports people.

“We have had enquiries internationally on how meal plans can be adapted for non-meat options, but still providing optimum levels of protein for active sportspeople. I myself am very active and I only eat vegetarian meals, and I don’t have any lack of energy or feel I am missing anything, so it can be done,” he said.

Independent On Saturday