For the longest time, Raveena Taurani thought she would be an actress. Born and brought up in the middle of India’s tinsel town, Mumbai, films were in her blood. She even dabbled in acting; giving auditions and training for various roles. The uncertainty and struggle were debilitating, but it wasn’t till in 2014, when a 23-year-old Taurani was afflicted by a spinal injury, during a film shoot, that forced her to re-evaluate her choices and decisions.
Taurani reconnected with yoga to heal herself, physically and mentally. She had earlier taken refuge in yoga when a change in school boards left her stressed out. Eventually, her injury and sudden development of allergies led her to move towards a cleaner living and diet.
Raveena Taurani, today, is a chef specialising in plant-based living and CEO of Mumbai-based food brand, Yogisattva. The journey has been tumultuous, to say the least, but one where she has emerged victorious. LF sat down with her to understand the nitty-gritty of her current passion and lifestyle—a whole foods-plant based living and Yogisattva.
(Excerpts from the interview)
What motivates and keeps you going towards your goal towards a healthy and holistic life?
I don’t see myself waking up and doing anything else! Over time, I have become a more private person; I love sleeping early, waking up early and eating healthy. I love being in real and organic relationships with people and my food. It makes me feel happy as I live my purpose every day. Whenever I am having a low day or feeling tense or out of control I simply go back to my kitchen because that is where I feel the safest and where I get my ideas on what to do next.
What is a whole foods plant-based (WFPB) diet?
Going whole foods-plant based means consuming only unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods cooked in unrefined, cold-pressed organic oils. There are people who may choose to go without oils, relying only on nuts and seeds for healthy fats. My belief is that oils are essential for lubrication of joints and in fact, cold-pressed oils such as coconut oil are great for hair and skin. Moreover, being on a plant-based diet has made me more energetic, improved my unity, quality of sleep and overall well-being. WFPB diet is also better for the environment with limited greenhouse gas emissions, which is not the case with animal agriculture and the meat industry.
How difficult is it to adopt a whole foods and vegan lifestyle?
Following a vegan lifestyle is not difficult once you educate yourself and make use of as many local ingredients as possible. Indian food is largely vegan, once you’ve found a nutritive replacement for ghee.
What are your thoughts on vegan, dairy-free, keto and other fad diets? What advice would you give someone who wishes to go vegan?
You make an ethical statement when you call yourself vegan. It doesn’t mean simply giving up animal-based food, but also leather products and using animal-tested skincare and makeup. To someone who wishes to go vegan, I would suggest:
- Start small and do not get very obsessive. If you love your paneer or yoghurt, go ahead and have it once in a while.
- Eat according to your genetics and enjoy your share of dal-rice. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can survive on quinoa.
When it comes to diets such as keto or extreme veganism, I feel these were meant only for people with serious medical conditions. The focus should always be on gaining health and not losing weight.
Why is there such a premium and a high mark up on vegan dishes at a restaurant?
Restaurants tend to use exotic ingredients for vegan dishes, which are inherently expensive. Take desserts, for example, most vegan desserts are made from dry fruits and exotic vegetables such as zucchini and avocado—they are expensive as compared to local ingredients. The taxation system doesn’t help—in our efforts to support farmers, we pay a huge delivery charge. To top it all, there are rent and electricity costs involved in the running of an establishment.
Having said that, I do think that if we can spend on expensive cosmetics, we can most certainly invest the money in healthy food too.
How does the Farm-to-Fork concept work?
There is no restaurant that is 100% organic, including Yogisattva. What’s important is building a relationship with farmers and sourcing products directly from the farms. It is also crucial to ensure that the role of a middle man is limited to being just the representative of a farmer and does not eat into the farmer’s income. Barring dry goods, such as pulses and flours, all of Yogisattva’s vegetables and fruits are sourced from organic farms. We place the order in advance and get the delivery every Tuesday and Thursday.
How does one identify organic produce? Why is all organic produce expensive?
For any product to be considered organic, the soil needs to be away from chemicals for a minimum of 25 years. But in India, it is restricted to just two years. The best way to ensure that your produce is truly organic is to visit the farms personally. It is also one of the reasons why organic produce is expensive.
The prices also go up because of lower yield and small batch production. If I buy basmati rice, there are huge machines and supply chains, which are involved in getting the final product to you. But if I bought unpolished Sonam Suri rice, no two grains look alike and a lot of human labour is involved. India also lacks supply chains and factory outlets that are completely organic. Once the demand increases and more farmers will be encouraged to go organic.
What’s next for Yogisattva? How do you plan to take whole food plant-based movement forward?
The next step for Yogisattva would be to open a full-time restaurant. We are also planning on setting up a delivery kitchen in South Mumbai. Moreover, I would also like to teach and spread the movement in other cities and dispel any myths or apprehensions related to this lifestyle.