What’s The Story Behind Yasmine Nazmy?
Yasmine Nazmy is an entrepreneur, recipe developer and author. She is the founder of KAJU, Egypt’s first and only brand of raw vegan products. In 2017, she released Egypt’s first allergen-friendly and vegetarian cookbook: Happy Belly.
Tell us more about your book “Happy Belly”.
“Happy Belly is a collection of my favorite recipes, all without meat, dairy, gluten, and sugar. I started working on the book in 2016, but some of he recipes have been developed as early as 2013, when I was preparing to open my restaurant The Vegan Kitchen (closed 2015). The recipes are basically the ones that give me a happy belly! I have been struggling with food intolerances since I was a kid, and it took years for me to find my balance with food. However this balance keeps changing over time, so it’s a little tricky to find what works for you, especially if you’re this sensitive.
I wrote this book to help people realize that there this still so much that can be done with local plant- based Egyptian ingredients, even if you have allergies or intolerances!”
What is your food philosophy?
“My food philosophy is to eat what feels right on every level: physical, mental and emotional. The physical part you can sense it right away – for example, if you feel balanced and positive after a meal or if you feel tired and bloated. The mental part depend on your research and what you know about these foods, for example knowing a certain food’s nutritional benefits or knowing about how organic food is grown as opposed to intensive agriculture. It’s about making logical decisions based on the information that is made available, now online and for free! This part is actually really important and has only started becoming more mainstream recently. We deserve to know how our food is grown, packaged and transported because it affects our health directly. (If you’re curious, look up Bisphenol-A).
Then regarding emotions, we have to be sensitive to the certain energy carried by foods. For example if you’re feeling lonely or sad, you might go for something and unhealthy, and sometimes that’s fine, but what if you’d be equally satisfied with something warm and grounding? Just to give a little example, instead of opting for donuts you might feel just as comforted by delicious baked sweet potato. Now what if you’re feeling angry? Whatever is boiling inside of you needs to be cooled down with cold raw foods (and not spicy!). Another rule I also have is to keep things as simple as possible, it’s usually healthier to eat that way and also makes prepping and cleaning up much easier!”
What is “Veganism” and how is it good for your health?
“Veganism is lifestyle choice to eliminate all animal products (meats) and byproducts (dairy, honey, wool, etc). By adopting a vegan lifestyle you can cure disease, lose weight, improve mood and still gain muscle mass, if desired. In general it is much easier on the digestive system than a typical diet full of meat and dairy, however this is subjective because one can still be considered vegan but eat lots of nutrient-poor foods. So it is important keep in mind that you should consume nutrient-dense foods and load up on raw foods such as greens and fruits to get all the vitamins you need! Without wanting to make it sound to black-or-white you tend to see junk-vegans and healthy-vegans out there, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy vegan junk food from time to time! You have to keep some flexibility, and not be too harsh on yourself when you want to eat healthier. In the end we’re all different and one-diet-fits-all will NEVER work!”
What made you decide to become a raw vegan?
“I’m not a raw vegan but I do try to eat as much raw food as possible. I also sometimes include raw eggs in my diet because I refuse to supplement with B12 (which is an essential supplement for strict vegans, as the b12 vitamin does not exist in substantial amount in plant foods). I simply don’t want to depending on pills/pharmaceuticals to stay healthy, for me that goes against the original purpose. Raw foods are so energizing and I mean that on both a physical and mental level. I feel more satiated after a raw meal, definitely more hydrated and I also feel that I have more nutrients flowing through me than after a cooked meal. However I don’t like extremes, and I do enjoy cookies and roasted vegetables every other day or so! While I haven’t been able to maintain 100% raw, I feel so sluggish when I eat 100% cooked so I found that my personal balance is at around 90% raw 10% cooked.. and everyone’s balance will be different! That balance can also change throughout the seasons.”
As a vegan in Egypt, do you find difficulties eating out?
“I never eat out! It’s not because I don’t find food but it’s because I honestly don’t like how most food is cooked and prepared in restaurants here. I find that the ingredients are rarely fresh enough, the food is either undercooked, over cooked or too oily. Also I find that the robotic way of operating restaurants results in food that is made under pressure and not with love. You feel this right away and it affects the taste. Of course there are some exceptions to this, I always prefer small family-owned restaurants where the quality is more easily supervised and the atmosphere is warmer. On a more general note though I find that there are many new places offering vegan options or simply old places offering new options! While a lot of it could be improved, it’s still a great step forwards and I hope these restaurants are encouraged to develop larger Vegan menus!”
Tell us about a funny story that you have encountered in your venture.
“Sometimes people don’t believe that my products are made without sugar (I use organic Dates only) and a couple of times I had a few minute long debate with potential customers trying to convince them that my ice cream doesn’t haven’t any sugar in it!”
If you could give one piece of advice to new vegans, what would it be?
“Eat greens and track your protein intake! You only need to track proteins for about a week or so, and there are so many apps to help you do that, until you have an idea of how you can achieve a reasonable level without too much effort. It’s actually not hard to do, but you need to know (and deserve to know!) what you’re feeding yourself!”
What would you tell someone who wants to become a vegan but find it difficult to start?
“Don’t jump in with both legs! Gradually let go of meat and dairy, maybe you wish to keep eggs and fish for a longer while or reduce it to once a week until you find your balance. Also, don’t take youtubers’ advice too solidly, there’s a lot of pseudoscience going viral. Listen to your body, educate yourself about food and eat what makes you feel great!”
By adopting this lifestyle, who do you aspire to become and why?
“My main aim is to become more in tune with my body as I grow older. Since I’ve cut out meat and milk products, I felt that my body was suddenly giving me more signs that there were other foods I had to cut out as well (I won’t bore you with a list but it ranges from pineapple to barley, and cauliflower to chickpeas). Our bodies are constantly talking to us, or in other words our tummies often complain a lot but we aren’t sensitive to those signs. As we eat more natural foods and keep our meals simple, that’s when it becomes easier to adapt to our body’s demands. Eating plant based made me reconnect to the source of our food: our planet. Though I used to be environmentally aware before changing my diet, I feel that I am much more connected to the earth now and I take more actions to reduce my plastic waste. I also want to go deeper into permaculture in which I’m already certified, but I’d like to take it a step further and hopefully one day eat all my meals from my organic garden.”