Cover Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular nowadays. But how beneficial are they really? (Photo: Unsplash)

Four Malaysians reflect on their journeys with veganism, from the initial challenges to its eventual health benefits

The idea of living a life without eating meat may sound intolerable to some people but more and more are discovering the benefits of going vegan. According to the Veganism Society, the number of vegans in Great Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2019, going from 150,000 to 600,000 people. The global retail market for plant-based foods is also worth US$7 billion in 2021, up from US$5.5 billion in 2019.

To mark World Vegan Day that falls on November 1, we asked four Malaysian vegans about their lifestyle choices.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide To Vegetarian Fine Dining In Malaysia

1. Davina Goh

Davina Goh is an emcee, performer, and plant-based lifestyle advocate. She currently leads the Plant-Based Campaign Unit at the Society For The Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (SPCA) Selangor, and is studying towards a Diploma in Healing Diets at the School of Natural Medicine UK.

How long have you been vegan, and what made you decide to take up veganism?

I’ve been vegan for almost seven years now. I’ve always had an inclination to become one. Compassion has coursed through my veins since childhood and I was always trying to find a way out of the meat-based diet which my parents enforced at home. 

Through years of personal research and the permeation of veganism into mainstream media about 10 years ago, I came to know of the environmental and health benefits from the diet. The driving force to go vegan was kindness, the most obvious benefit I feel today is health, but the reason I stick to being one is because in a world that is progressively making less sense, veganism is one of the few things around that still does.

What benefits do you think being vegan has brought to your life?

Where do I start? I’m 39 this year and honestly feel younger now than when I did in my 20s. The vegan diet has given me so much energy. It has helped me pursue athletic feats which I never would have believed I was capable of. It has helped clear up my congested complexion and consequently helped me heal from a mental illness called dermatillomania (skin picking disorder), which plagued me for over a decade. It also brought regularity to my menstrual cycle. It has enhanced my focus and mental clarity. And it has led me towards incredibly inspiring friendships in the Malaysian vegan community and beyond. The greatest benefit is that my actions are finally aligned with my personal values and principles. A lot of people believe that veganism is a restrictive lifestyle. For me, it has set me free.

What is your favourite vegan cheat meal?

Durian and pisang goreng. I’m a simple Malaysian girl who enjoys simple Malaysian pleasures!

What advice would you give someone who is considering to take up veganism?

Don’t take it too seriously. The vegan movement has its roots in serious issues, but your own exploration of the diet and lifestyle doesn’t have to be. If you put too much pressure on yourself, chances are high that for the moments you fail, you won’t have the energy and motivation to get back up and try again. It’s also important to focus on the gains rather than the losses. Take your time, do your homework, think positive, celebrate the small victories, and above all, enjoy the process.

See also: Asia's Best Vegetarian And Vegan Tasting Menus

2. Colleen Augustin

Colleen Augustin is a personal trainer, and an amateur mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. She was a gold medalist at the 2019 MMA Asian Open Championships.

How long have you been vegan, and what made you decide to take up veganism?

I've been a vegan for about four years now. I went vegan because I didn't want to harm any animals, and it also helps reduce my carbon footprint in this world. To me, it was like killing two birds with one stone.

Does being vegan bring any challenges to your lifestyle or job? If yes, how do you overcome these challenges?

The only challenge I face as a vegan MMA fighter is my nutrition. Sometimes I do not get enough of certain macronutrients and micronutrients into my diet which can aid in recovery, as I need to eat more of certain foods in order for me to hit the right amount of protein I would need for my training. I would overcome this by supplementing but I always believe in trying to get all nutrients from natural foods.

What benefits do you think being vegan has brought to your life?

It has taught me to be more compassionate and more aware of living beings around me.

Where do u go for a good vegan meal here, and what do you usually order?

Hands down my favourite places are Sala and Ganga Café. If I were to go to Sala I would always get a make-your-own burrito bowl. If I'm at Ganga Café, I always change my order every time to try different things. The people there are always friendly.

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3. Vythilingam Pillay

Vythilingam Pillay has been a medical general practitioner in Kuala Lumpur since 1980. He is a former president of the Asia Pacific Vegan Union.

How long have you been vegan, and what made you decide to take up veganism?

I adopted a vegetarian diet since 1983 after seeing raised cholesterol in my blood profile. Knowing that my father died of an acute heart attack at the age of 53, I felt that a change in the my lifestyle was the way to go. Subsequent years were challenging for me as my circle of friends, relatives and doctors were all non-vegetarians and I had difficult times going out with them. Despite being a vegetarian, my blood showed raised cholesterol as I was consuming milk and milk products, processed foods, snacks, and soft drinks daily. When I later turned vegan, it gave me better health.

Does being vegan bring any challenges to your lifestyle or job? If yes, how do overcome these challenges?

Yes, that was a challenge. I was not invited to many parties and wedding dinners in hotels as my friends found it difficult to cater for vegan food. Hindu temple weddings are an exception as only vegetarian food is served. I avoid foods containing ghee and milk products like yogurt. During working days, I normally buy back vegetarian food from non-vegetarian restaurants as vegetarian restaurants were difficult to find in the 1980s and 1990s. At times I packed my lunch from home. I was the only vegetarian at home and that was another challenge. 

Are there any particular health risks that come with being vegan?

Vegans must be aware of Vitamin B12, Folate, Vitamin D, omega 3, iodine, iron, zinc and calcium deficiencies. Adopting a well-planned vegan diet, however, will take care of all that.

Where do u go for a good vegan meal here, and what do you usually order?

Most Chinese and Indian vegetarian restaurants provide vegan options. Dedicated vegan restaurants can be expensive. I am not a fan of Western-type vegan meals. Plantbased (PB) Kitchen provides tasty well balanced healthy meals which can be ordered online.  You can also check out the GoVeggie Malaysia app and Happycow's website.

Read more: Kimchi Jjigae, Tofu Musubi And Other Vegetarian Dishes To Make This Weekend

 

4. Yin Yin Boey

Yin Yin Boey, also popularly known as Raw Chef Yin, is a raw vegan chef and culinary instructor. 

How long have you been vegan, and what made you decide to take up veganism?

I started transitioning from flexitarian to vegetarian to vegan in 2015. I think I was fully vegan in 2016.

In 2014, I had just bought an ice cream maker and was looking for healthy ice cream recipes when a raw vegan lasagna recipe caught my eye and I made that instead. I was amazed how good it tasted and what blew my mind was how energised I felt after that meal. I started doing more research on raw vegan food and found out about the health benefits. My health improved tremendously and my immune system was boosted. I had suffered from eczema for over 30 years but once I went raw vegan, it was cured.

Later on, I also learnt about the horrors of the meat and dairy industry. Plus the effect it has on the climate emergency, it totally made sense to be vegan.

What benefits do you think being vegan has brought to your life?

I used to catch cough and colds really easily but I hardly fall sick anymore. Also, no more eczema problems. Raw vegan food gives you so much energy and vibrancy in life.

Where do u go for a good vegan meal here, and what do you usually order?

For something healthy but yummy, I love the food at Chef Dave’s PB Kitchen. He gets the Malaysian flavours spot on. The Nyonya Laksa and Nasi Kerabu are my favourites. Sala is also a firm favourite. I love its Nasi Lemak and Shroom Asada burritos. The Hungry Tapir has great offerings as well. I especially like its Rainbow Ulam Fried Rice. I'm also a fan of the the Green Hulk Curry and Manhattan Curry from Savor Of Life.

What advice would you give someone who is considering to take up veganism?

Do your research. Learn how to make your own vegan food—it’s not difficult and can be fun. And join the vegan community for support.

See also: Chef Dave Puts A Vegan Spin On Popular Malaysian Dishes

 

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