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What is a Vegetarian? What is a Vegan?

A vegetarian is one who does not eat meat, fish and poultry. A vegan is a vegetarian who refrains from consuming all animal products including milk, cheese, eggs, wool, silk and leather.
The word 'vegetarian' is derived from the Latin word vegetus meaning 'whole, sound, fresh or lively', and its original meaning implies a balanced philosophical and moral sense of life apart from a diet of vegetables and fruits.

What are the reasons for being a Vegetarian?
  • Health reasons - there is evidence of a link between meat-eating and such killers as heart disease and cancer
  • Ecological reasons - concern about pollution and degradation of the environment
  • Religious reasons - all major religious scriptures condemn killing of any kind
  • Compassion for animals - animals too suffer pain and misery when slaughtered
  • Belief in non-violence - we must eradicate all thoughts of violence before expecting peace in this world
  • Economics - meat feeds few at the expense of many
What are the different types of Vegetarians?
  • Vegan - eats food of plant origin only
  • Ovo vegetarian - eats eggs but no dairy products, meat, fish or poultry
  • Ovo-lacto vegetarian - eats eggs and dairy products but no meat, fish or poultry
  • Lacto vegetarian - eats dairy products but no eggs, meat, fish or poultry
  • Pesco vegetarian - eats fish but no meat or poultry (controversial)
  • Pollo vegetarian - eats poultry but no meat or fish (controversial)
Can a Vegetarian diet meet one's nutritional requirements?

A vegetarian diet can indeed meet all of one's nutritional requirements.

Good sources of protein include lentils, tofu, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, tempeh and peas.

Many common foods such as whole grain bread, greens, potatoes, pasta, and corn add to one's protein intake.

Plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and non-essential amino acids required for growth.

Good sources of iron include dried beans, spinach, chard, beet greens, blackstrap molasses, bulgur, prune juice, brewer's yeast and dried fruit. Foods containing vitamin C, such as citrus fruit or juices, tomato, or broccoli, increase the absorption of iron from a meal. Cooking food in iron utensils also adds to iron intake.

Good sources of calcium include collard greens, broccoli, kale, low fat dairy products, turnip greens, tofu prepared with calcium, and fortified soy milk.

A diet containing dairy products or eggs provides adequate amounts of vitamin B12. Certain fortified foods, such as some brands of cereal, nutritional yeast, soy milk, or soy analogs, are good non-animal sources of vitamin B12.

Good sources of zinc include whole grains, nuts, soy products, wheat germ and legumes.

Most vegetarian diets are generally lower than non-vegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer.

Vegetarian Substitutes
The following can be used as a substitute for one egg:
- 1 banana (for cakes, pancakes, etc)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot starch
- Ener-G Egg Replacer (available in health food stores)
- 1/4 cup tofu (blended smooth with the liquid ingredients)

The following can be used as dairy substitutes:
- soy milk
- soy margarine
- soy yogurt
- nut milks (nuts blended with water and strained)
- rice milks (cooked rice blended with water)

The following can be used as meat substitutes:
- tempeh (cultured soybeans with a chewy texture)
- tofu (frozen and then thawed to give it a meaty texture and off-white colour)
- wheat gluten or seitan (has the texture of meat)

Tofu dogs, black bean burgers and sausage made from textured vegetable protein can replace non-vegetarian favorites such as hot dogs, hamburgers, roast beef and bacon.

Some Tips for a Healthy Vegetarian Diet
  • Reduce your intake of sweet and fatty foods. These foods are low in nutrients and high in calories.
  • Choose whole or unrefined grain products, or use fortified or enriched cereal products.
  • Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, including foods that are rich in vitamins A and C.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat milk and other dairy products.
  • Limit your consumption of eggs as they are high in cholesterol.
  • Enjoy a wide variety of foods to ensure that you get the necessary nutrients for good health.
Some Famous Vegetarians

King Asoka
Leonardo da Vinci
Sir Isaac Newton
Benjamin Franklin
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Leo Tolstoy
George Bernard Shaw
Rabindranath Tagore
Mahatma Gandhi
Albert Schweitzer
Albert Einstein
Janet Jackson
Paul McCartney
Pamela Anderson
Brigitte Bardot
President Abdul Kalam
Thomas Edison
Michael J Fox

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