My journey to a plant-based lifestyle: healthy eating for my own health, that of our planet, and for animals that no longer suffer to become my food
Hello, I am Ina Mohan and I am happy that you take the time to visit my website, Belsandia.com!
I live in Las Vegas, Nevada and have created my company Belsandia here in 2009.
Belsandia is a work of passion and conviction about a healthy, cruelty-free, and sustainable lifestyle. I hope this shows in the content, and that you will find the information that you are looking for. Please come back often, as I will constantly update the site with new material to make it a useful companion for you.
Let me tell you a little bit about myself and my journey towards Belsandia.
Starting as certified chef in Germany
I always loved hotels and restaurants, so in 1985 I became a certified chef in the kitchen of a Moevenpick Hotel in Germany, my home country. Moevenpick is a Swiss hotel chain in Europe with a great reputation for its food and ice cream.
So naturally this was my first choice to learn cooking – the real classic French and Swiss way - which means rich in meat, cream, and butter.
At that time I thought nothing wrong about that, although I never liked the idea of killing animals for food, and when the lobsters arrived in our kitchen to be boiled alive, I somehow always had other things to do and disappeared into the large cooling rooms.
After learning all about nutrition and food preparation as a chef, I completed a second certification as restaurant and hotel expert, so in total I had a 5-year training around all things food and beverage. It was a joyful time, but it still left me oblivious to the importance of the right food choices for our own health and that of the environment around us.
The beginning of my vegetarian journey
After a few years in various restaurant and hotel operations in Germany, I joined Micros Systems, a hospitality technology company with base in the USA. Micros was seeking hospitality professionals for more credibility with customers, and that was the begin of my hotel software career. With Micros I was also fortunate to travel worldwide and visit over 30 countries, which gave me a great appreciation of the diverse customs and culinary habits of the countries I visited.
In 1998 I moved to the USA and worked for Micros software development in Florida, where I met my husband Mukund – the first vegetarian in my life. Coming from India, Mukund had been a vegetarian since childhood, so avoiding meat was natural for him.
But that was against all of my understanding what a tasty meal is about! I was used to classic cooking with meat and creamy, high-fat sauces, so there couldn’t possibly be a good meal without a meat centerpiece?
Strangely though, when we went to restaurants, I started longing for the food on Mukund's plate, as he always had more colorful, fresh, appetizing-looking dishes. When I compared those with the slabs of meat in a puddle of brown sauce on my plate, I had to admit that I'd rather eat his dinner!
And so it started: we both ordered vegetarian meals in restaurants to share, and at home we cooked meat-free so we could both eat it.
Did I have to make-do with bland vegetarian food that left me craving for juicy steaks? Quite the opposite – the flavorful vegetarian Indian and other Asian dishes we cooked left nothing else to wish for, and only made me want more of it. Check out some of our yummy recipes here.
As certified chef and restaurant expert I had learned a fair bit about nutrition, so I started comparing my former meat-rich diet to the newly found plant-based meals we ate – and guess what?
Vegetarian meals ALWAYS won the contest for fewer calories, less fat, and far more nutrients in the same package!
On top of that my energy level increased and I felt leaner and more agile. A triple whammy like that convinced me and I became a vegetarian – at that time with occasional exceptions (I really loved sushi).
Learning more through tragedy
My mum died of breast cancer at the young age of 64, after living a relatively active and healthy life. My dad and I researched and found that increased hormone levels can contribute to the development of cancer cells into malicious killers. My mum had taken a hormone product to balance menopause effects, which years later was implicated with inducing breast cancer. High estrogen levels are dangerous for women, because breast cancer cells love them.
If not through hormone-laced medication, we get more than our fair share of hormones from dairy products. Cow milk is NOT GOOD for adult humans – men or women. It has a ton of potent growth hormones and proteins, which are meant to raise a baby cow to adulthood in a couple of months.
For adult humans, the high dose of hormones and proteins in dairy products - exacerbated further by artificial growth hormones added by the dairy industry - can allow cancer cells to spread more easily through the body and take an aggressive turn. The protein casein, present in all dairy products, is also known to be a particularly malicious player in regards to cancer growth.
My dad suffered from two bouts of colon cancer, and luckily it was operable both times. High meat consumption has been found to be a stimulant for colon cancer, as the bile acids used to digest meat fat stimulate cancer growth in the intestine. Meat also has a long digestion cycle in humans and creates tons of bacteria in the colon that make a nice cushy environment for cancer cells to grow. Find out more about disease prevention with diet.
So here I was: I had given up meat and fish, but I was still chomping down on cheesy foods wherever I could find them. Imagine the surprise and dismay when I drilled down deep into the inter-relationship between dairy foods and diseases. It literally changed my outlook on food right then!
Next, I decided to look even further at where our animals food actually comes from.
Curiosity and shocking new information
When I became vegetarian I did not know much about factory farming cruelty or how greenhouse gases from the food industry impact our planet. I only knew that plant-based food was better for health and energy, plus it kept my weight steady.
Then came the day when I watched my first factory farm undercover investigation video. Non-suspecting but curious, I picked up "Meet your meat" narrated by Alec Baldwin.
What a shock!! It took me hours to mentally digest what I had seen, not to mention the strong emotional outburst of sadness, disgust, and rage about the witnessed animal cruelty and abuse on factory farms!
Back in the kitchen in Germany I was somehow not aware how animals are mass-farmed and how they suffer from birth to death, just to provide food for us humans.
And to be sure, animal products are NOT healthy food! They are just the customary, traditional - often cheapest - food that we consume without knowing better.
But now we have all this new research with proof how animal ingredients induce cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, Alzheimers, and the list goes on. So why do we still continue farming animals for food if we could get rid of fatal diseases, save high health costs, protect our planet for the future, and spare animals such cruelty?
Going vegan all the way - and bashing misperceptions
For a few years I thought it was good enough to be vegetarian and to skip meat and fish – but still eat dairy and eggs - as I thought that the latter would actually be healthy for us. I was aware of slaughterhouse atrocities and meat factory farms, but I thought it was OK to eat cheese and eggs, as these products don’t kill the animals, right?
Gosh was I wrong!
Not only do dairy and eggs have bad health effects, but the abhorrent animal cruelty extends to dairy and egg farms too, where animals suffer even longer as part of our standard food production process. And finally, these cows and chickens also end their miserable shortened lives in the slaughterhouse - it just took more years of agony to get them there.
On top of that, male baby cows and chicks are unwanted byproducts of the dairy and egg industries, and as such, they either suffer badly for a very short life span, or are killed right away as they are considered useless trash.
What a horror and quite an awakening for me! You can find more details about this on my factory farming page.
I then knew there was only one way to be healthy and consistent with my values all at once, so I moved from being vegetarian to vegan in 2009, which means I no longer consume any animal products and avoid using them in other areas of my life wherever possible. I still have some leather goods that I am gradually getting rid of.
In Las Vegas I am co-organizer of multiple great meetup groups that offer tons of information and events about healthy eating, vegetarianism and animal advocacy: Vegas Veg and Las Vegas Raw Food Group are two of these.
We offer something for everybody - no matter if you are already vegan or if you simply want to add more plant-based dishes to your diet: you will find value in the many meetings, movie screenings, potlucks, restaurant events, vegan drinks, lectures, etc,. that we do.
Belsandia is born
I am often asked what Belsandia means. I created this word as a combination of three latin words:
"Bel" stands for bellezza (beauty), "san" stands for sanitas (health), and "dia" stands for dia (day). That's how I created the tagline for Belsandia: "It's a beautiful day for a healthy life!"
Belsandia's mission is to serve as your guide to a healthy, cruelty-free, and sustainable lifestyle by adopting healthy eating guidelines that will benefit your health, our planet, and all of its living creatures
While the true health benefits of plant foods are easy to see once you learn more about them, it takes a while for us humans to adopt new findings and use them to our advantage. A slew of misinformation, data suppression, and steady temptations from fatty, sweet, and processed foods, marketed heavily by media and the food industry, make it hard to believe that these foods are really so bad for us.
With the help of deep corporate pockets and misguided government subsidies, the worst possible foods for our health are also those that are constantly promoted into our face.
This is where Belsandia comes in to assist with well-researched, scientifically supported information, along with studies, facts, and many real life examples.
The journey from meat-eater to vegetarian to eventually vegan can be challenging, and is often scattered with setbacks and doubts. I admit that even I still have occasional lapses into dairy foods when faced with no alternatives when I visit India or Germany, for example.
The important thing is to follow your heart and to absorb good information and facts from credible sources that trulty care about your health..
The more you know about healthy eating guidelines, the easier it is to stay on track towards a healthier life.
Habit, culture, tradition, religion, status, peer pressure, misperception – they will all play tricks on your good intentions to adapt a healthy and cruelty-free diet.
So keep your final goals in mind – whichever you want to pursue most:
- Treat or prevent diseases, lose weight permanently, live longer and healthier.
- Fight animal cruelty through selecting cruelty-free foods and goods.
- Lower your own environmental impact and that of the food industry.
- Share more food with hungry people on the planet – if we don’t feed the grains to animals first there is more to go round for other humans!
Take The First Step
Enough about my thoughts. More important is that YOU get all the information and help you need on this website to make your own educated choices. Try a healthy, humane way of living with Belsandia, either slowly step by step - or in one giant leap.
Feel free to contact me with any suggestions you may have. I promise to consider every comment that will improve Belsandia and make it more valuable for you and other visitors.
It's a beautiful day for a healthy life - so take the first step with me today into the right direction!
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