Health & beauty |

Building the Ultimate Vegan Lifestyle

health & beauty | 4 July 2020
Vegan? Vegetarian? Lacto vegatarian?  Lacto-ovo-vegetarian ? What are the difference between these practices? And what are the benefits? Sari Widiati and Dr. Susianto Tseng have all the answers for you. Photos courtesy of Dr. Susianto Tseng

We often hear the benefits of a vegan diet that is good for the body, as well as for the earth. It may even inspire us to turn vegan, if not for the lack of good information on it. NOW! Jakarta spoke to Dr. Susianto Tseng, the President of World Vegan Organisation and Vegan Society of Indonesia to find out more. 

Every year, more and more people are making the decision to go vegan for various good reasons— to improve their lives, enjoy many health benefits, saving the environment, conserve natural resources and many more. 

Tseng is a nutritionist and a lecturer who teaches public health. He has been on a vegan diet since he was in college 32 years ago. It was then that he realised the vegan diet is so important for bodily health. 

According to Tseng, the word ‘vegan’ starts from the word ‘vegetarian’, taking the first three letters and the last two letters, merged into ‘vegan’. Scientific journals do not call it ‘vegan’ but plant-based. Society often mistake vegans for vegetarian, a similar word in English, but with different meaning. 

The word ‘vegetarian’ is not adopted from English. ‘Vegetarian’ is introduced to the world from England in 1842, long before there were modern vegetarian organisations. ‘Vegetarian’ comes from Latin language, namely vegetus which means life, fresh and sometimes interpreted as vigorous. This does not really mean vegetables. The concept of vegetarianism carrying the meaning of only eating vegetables is not true. Vegetarian and vegan can meet the needs of balanced nutrition, namely carbohydrates, protein, fat as macro nutrients as well as vitamins and minerals as micronutrients, “Tseng explained. 

In 1847, a British politician Joseph Brotherton and his wife and friends pioneered the founding Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom. And the development of time and scientific research on nutrition and the environment also ethical and cultural factors, further developments, from vegetarian upgraded to vegan. 

One of the most common questions is the difference between vegetarian and vegan. According to Tseng, it’s in said that is the pattern of consumption. The vegan diet contains only plant-based, depraved of animal-based and animal-based foods. 

Vegetarian, on the other hand, splits into more categories, such as lacto vegetarian, whose consumption is vegetables plus milk and its processed products. This diet is widely adopted by people in India, with practitioners approximately reaching 400 million people. Then there’s the lacto-ovo vegetarian, which consumer dairy products plus eggs.

In 1944, Donald Watson, a British animal rights advocate, established the UK Vegan Society and the American Vegan Society three years after. The movement continued to grow with new discoveries in the fields of nutrition, health and disease until now it has a vegetarian organisation in various countries including Indonesia, as well as the World Vegan Organization.

“Forbes Magazine said that 2019 was the year of Vegans. Also in 2019, world-class entrepreneurs like Bill Gates flocked to invest and various international franchises of vegan food (vegetable) until the value of vegan food companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods soared to multiply with sales increasing to 150-200% in that year. This did not just happen, but as many scientific facts and research in the areas of health nutrition, disease prevention, environmental preservation and animal welfare opened the eyes of around 700 million or 10% of the world's population to adopt a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle,” Tseng revealed. 

In Indonesia, Tseng continued, the development of vegans is quite advanced, marked by the emergence of many restaurants that serve vegan menus. From the survey in 1998, there were 50 restaurants and in 2017 there were more than 2,000 restaurants. 

A vegan diet can be one of the healthiest ways to live; it contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Because vegan diets often rely heavily on these healthy staples, they tend to be higher in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fibre. Healthy vegan diets are abundant with vitamins B1, C, and E, folic acid, magnesium, and iron while also being low in cholesterol and saturated fats.

In line with the revised diet in Indonesia, Empat Sehat Lima Sempurna (Four Healthy Five Perfect) that has not been used since 1993, and the Ministry of Health of Indonesia has promoted the Balanced Nutrition Guidelines, Isi Piringku (Food on My Plate) in 2017, Tseng said that the government provides food guidelines that can be used as a reference for one-time meal offerings. where mathematically 92% of the contents of my dishes are sourced from vegetables, namely staple foods, vegetables and fruits as well as vegetable side dishes. About 8% the content of animal side dishes can be substituted with plants-based to meet the consumption of 100% vegetables (vegan).

Does a vegan diet lack protein?

Tseng answered, "That’s inaccurate.” Since 1993, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have used the new PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score) standard to determine protein quality based on the needs of the human body to be able to grow and live healthy, where vegetable protein is the same quality with animal.

Tseng mentioned some examples, saying that soybeans contain 34 to 36% protein average, with premium ones reaching 40%, peanuts 28% and green beans 24%, while animal meats around 9 to 23%, seafood 16 to 25%, eggs 12,9 to 13,9%, quantitatively still below the vegan. 

“People often forget that animals get their protein from plants,” he said. 

“And, if we read what the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) had stated that around 75% new diseases originate from animals, one of them is Corona. Also, WHO released that 61% of the diseases that we know so far are actually from animals, such as non-contagious environment-based diseases originating from microbes, like dengue fever and salmonella. Sometimes people don’t realize that the relationship between diet and disease is very closely related.”

According to Tseng, it has not yet talked about the contribution of animal husbandry to the environment, which the livestock industry contributes as much as 18% to global warming, while land, air and sea transportation is lower, which is by 13%.