KUALA LUMPUR, January 21 – The Lunar New Year always brings around a new mindset to improve our health and well-being. As 2023 marks the ushering in of the year of the Rabbit, one way we can look towards doing so this year is by taking a page out of this furry little creature’s diet and incorporate more veggies and vegan foods into our busy lives. “People have become more receptive to plant-based diets in recent years, as they are packed with healthy fibre, vitamins and minerals, free of cholesterol, and are much lower in calories and saturated fats. 

They are also rich in antioxidants which can help protect against heart disease, certain types of cancer and diabetes,” says Dr Jasminder Kaur, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist at Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway City. “Besides that, they also help to keep people feeling fuller for longer periods of time and increase energy use when resting, which helps with weight management and combatting obesity.” However, Dr Jasminder acknowledges that doing a complete overhaul on one’s diet can be intimidating and requires a lot of hard work and discipline.

Luckily, there is a wide variety of plant-based diets to try out if you feel like the standard practice of cutting out meat products is not appealing. Lacto-vegetarian, This diet excludes meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. However, dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, are still consumed. Ovo-vegetarian, This type of plant-based diet excludes meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products, but allows the consumption of eggs. Lacto-ovo vegetarian, Excludes meat, fish and poultry, but includes dairy products and eggs in their diets.

Pescatarian, This diet gets their main source of protein from fish, but does not consume meat and poultry, dairy, and eggs. Vegan, This is the strictest type of plant-based diet – excluding meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products along with any foods that contain these products. While adopting a plant-based diet is a great step for fully grown adults to take if they’re looking to improve their health and well-being, it is also important to remember that simply becoming vegetarian will not cure ailments or make a person healthy overnight. 

“To see proper improvements, it is essential to plan well, ideally with a nutritionist that understands your current bill of health. A healthy approach to plant-based dieting means including a variety of nutrient-rich ingredients and protein substitutes, since meat products are not being consumed. Additionally, plant-based dieting needs to be part of an overall healthful lifestyle, so we need to remember to stay active and get enough rest,” Dr Jasminder shares.

She concludes that for people who are just starting along this journey, a gradual or partial cutting of meat products may be a more suitable option. “Don’t be swayed by the latest ‘trending’ diets you may see on social media as ‘quick fixes’ to your health. Incorporating plant-based foods as a main component of your daily diet should be something you invest in for your own good, therefore you should make sure to go at a pace that is beneficial to you and your lifestyle to reap the best results.”