If your family is anything like mine, going meatless is equivalent to dying a slow death.
This pushback was not entirely big news to me. After all, meat is an important part of Chinese culture. Naturally, I was taught - from the womb - that I must always eat the meat in front of me regardless of the taste. If I didn’t, I was reminded of one or more of the three things.
Meat is expensive. It came out of my parent’s pocket, so I should appreciate their hard work and eat it as a form of thanks.
Grandma spent hours making this fish/pork/beef/chicken/seafood dish, so you must eat it!
Meat contains all the protein and nutrients you need to grow. If you want to grow taller, eat up.
Due to the meat-eating lifestyle being ingrained into me, 99.999% of the time I just stared at them and chewed on a piece of meat. Eventually, I developed a brain and started exploring the internet by myself. I ultimately came across veganism which was, frankly, quite shocking for my 11-year-old self. No meat, no dairy, no eggs? No way!
But, a plant-based diet is entirely possible. More ethical and environmentally friendly, too. I urge you to try veganism out for yourself.
For now, let’s assume you are in the transitional stage and looking for arguments to back up your new diet. Hereby, I present four common misconceptions about veganism refuted.
You will become nutritionally deficient if you go vegan
This has to be the most common myth about the vegan diet. From what I’ve seen, parents associate veganism with a lack of nutrition because they see meat as the only source of high-quality protein.
They are right - to an extent.
Why? Well, animal sources are known as High Biological Value (HBV) protein because they have all of the essential amino acids we need. Meanwhile, plant-based sources are known as Low Biological Value (LBV) protein, meaning they are missing one or more of the essential amino acids. However, this does not automatically make LBV protein inferior to HBV protein. Rather, LBV proteins are just as nutritious so long as you do something called ‘protein complementation’ - i.e eating two or more forms of LBV protein together to cover the missing amino acids in each. This can be done, for example, by eating grains with beans or cereals with nuts.
Another common concern is Vitamin B12, a vitamin involved with making red blood cells and nerve cells. A deficiency means anaemia, fatigue, and a host of other symptoms. In truth, you will be fine by consuming B12 fortified foods or a vegan B12 supplement. Here is a link to the best vitamin B12 brands - 9 Best B12 Supplements of 2021 - and more recommendations for Vitamin B12.
Asians can’t be vegan?!
Nope, not true. If you look closely, Asia is actually home to many cultures and religions with vegetarian/vegan traditions, e.g. Hindus in India, Jains (also in India), and Buddhists across the Asian continent. However, meat overall has become so revered in our societies as a symbol of wealth and prosperity that refusing it is seen as a snub to one’s culture (you just need to look at my family as an example). Shirley Chong, a writer, even said ‘As a person of Chinese and Vietnamese descent, who has been a vegetarian for 10 years, I’ve definitely been given the impression that I am not really Asian since I don’t eat meat.’ My only question is: why do we stigmatise and isolate vegans, but not meat-eaters? Really, if we don’t shun meat eaters, we shouldn’t shun vegans, either.
Vegan food is bland and boring
It’s a pity people see veganism with so many misconceptions. Sure, vegans eat salads. But they also eat chocolates, pasta, cake and pies. Did you know you can make cheesecake from tofu? Or chickpeas from cookie dough? How about brownies made from black beans and sweet potato? In short, vegan food is anything but boring.
Anyways, if you are open to experimenting, a vegan diet is for you. By experimenting, you will learn to use spices, vegetables, beans etc to make a delicious meat-free meal. You will also start to appreciate a wider range of flavours and variety than ever before. After all, we can only enjoy things when we begin to do it, and this applies to vegan cooking too.
If you do want to try making vegan dishes yourself, here are some AMAZING Youtube channels with fruitful vegan content. Best of all, they’re free!
Veganism is hard
A common misconception about veganism is thinking veganism is difficult and expensive. It can be - but only if you merely consume direct meat substitutes and tree nut cheeses. In reality, eating vegan is actually cheaper because it focuses on widely available staples like rice, pasta, beans and grains. In contrast, meat and dairy can be expensive, especially if you are buying organic. Here is a picture as an example:
While it really depends on your budget, eating vegan is easier than ever. Now there are vegan restaurants, vegan-friendly ready meals and vegan-friendly stores with your favourite vegan goods. True, there is more that can be done, but Hong Kong has already made great strides in making veganism more affordable for the masses.
The conclusion? Eating vegan doesn’t have to be restrictive, bland or pricey. Coupled with a smaller carbon footprint and several health benefits, it’s no wonder veganism is becoming more popular. Just remember: your diet is your choice, and choosing to be a vegetarian does not make YOU more or less Asian. We should all be a bit kinder to each other, no?
Written by Kadence Wong
Edited by Chandni Sacheti