According to a Forbes food trends article for 2013, the most popular trend is vegan upscale dining. It is nice to see that there is a growing market in fine dining with all plant-based ingredients. It was a movement that started early in the year with many top chefs predicting that vegetables would become the main attraction at top restaurants as discussed in this blog post. It should help make the cuisine even more exciting, flavorful, and desirable especially as top restaurant vie for customers. It will also pressure meat-based restaurants to add more vegan options to their menus to stay competitive. This is a trend with very positive implications!
A 2012 Harvard Medical School study compared results of studies measuring women’s blood levels of carotenoid, colorful plant pigments that can act as antioxidants. The study determined that women with the highest levels of carotenoids had a lower risk of breast cancer..."
It's encouraging to see more research evaluating the ability of plant-based diets to counter chronic illnesses. This study by Harvard suggests that a diet rich in carotenoids is a possible way to prevent a prevalent type of cancer. Vegetables that supply carotenoids include yams, carrots, red bell peppers, and winter squashes along with the dark leafy green vegetables which provide an array of additional body balancing nutrients as well. Plant based food is also low in dietary fat, which has similarly been linked to preventing chronic illness.
The U.S. surgeon general has stated that “a comparison of populations indicates that death rates for cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate are directly proportional to estimated dietary fat intakes.”
As the article points out, no single factor can be directly linked to preventing chronic illness, but the research demonstrates that adopting a plant-based diet can mostly likely give one an advantage over time in staying healthy.
When Arizona's Maricopa County decided to switch to vegetarian food in all of it's county prisons, it was doing more than just saving money which was the main impetus. It was giving inmates a second chance. Vegetarian and vegan diets have been shown to improve behavior and reduce violence in study groups as discussed in this blog post. If the new diet has this affect, then the individuals learning the new way of eating and the community they return to will both benefit. It is hoped that, someday, this becomes the model across the country.
The vegan diet has a lot of data supporting it, especially when it comes to its agricultural efficiency compared to meat production. World demand for food and water is going up and according to these charts from Business Insider, relying on plant-based foods instead of meat-based ones may increase chances of supporting the demand in the future and reducing undernourishment today which affects nearly 1 billion people. Several important comparisons:
1. Cubic meters of water used per kilogram of product: Meat ~ 15.4, most vegetables < 1.8
2. Number of people whose caloric needs can be met on 2.5 acres of land: Beef ~ 1, cabbage ~ 23
3. Relative score of the most nutrient rich foods: Fish and meats <= 15, raw leafy green vegetables ~100
Malaysia, located between Thailand and Singapore, is constantly ranked in the top 10 among countries good for vegan or vegetarian travel. After a short time there its not hard to see why. With a mix of cultures, all known for great cooking, Malaysian cuisine offers so much variety and such an abundance of different flavors that its hard to decide what to eat.
The Malay, Chinese, and Indian dishes all have plenty of vegetarian options. What makes them unique is the wide range of curry flavoring with fresh coconut milk and spices, specials sauces from peanut to savory to chili hot which are poured over noodles or tofu, and the pleasant combinations of vegetables over rice. Beyond the main meal, the wide variety of freshly cut tropical fruit makes it easy to eat as a snack, for breakfast, or as a desert.
Now with the growth in popularity of vegetarian food trends globally, many new restaurants are opening across the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and across the country. Even the airports have vegetarian restaurants, so you can start your trip with a quick snack while still in the terminal!
Many fresh ingredients can be found in supermarkets like Tesco and Isetan, road side fruit stands, and smaller corner markets. Fresh coconut water is not hard to find with large coconuts available everywhere. The sellers chop them on site so they are ready to cut open when you get home. Lentils and chilies are a big part of the cooking experience, as well, for dahls and fried rice. My favorite fruit, the jack fruit, is always in supply.
When you travel through Asia, it becomes readily apparent that most of the growth in the world is occurring throughout China and Southeast Asia. During the time I visited Kuala Lumpur, the largest city, I counted more than 50 new buildings being constructed, along with major infrastructure projects in development such as highways, light rail, and subway systems. It is somewhat concerning since SE Asia, especially Malaysia and Indonesia, have dense jungles throughout the country and many old growth rainforest eco-systems that risk deforestation as the country's economy and population grows.
While the Environmental Protection Index (EPI) rates Malaysia at 25 which is considered 'strong', there is much to be worried about. Palm oil plantations continue to replace raw jungle. Palm oil is becoming an ingredient in many processed foods globally. In fact, burning of peat moss in Indonesia to clear land, especially in Borneo and Sumatra, has created such bad air pollution, it has caused international tensions among the countries in that region.
The good news is that there are many national parks created by the government to preserve bio-diversity and natural habitats. Malaysia is a mega-diverse nation when it comes to flora and fauna and has some of the most unique plants and animals on the planet, including the Sumatran tiger, Asian elephants, Malayan tapirs, orangutans, 300 species of stick insects, hornbill birds, and clouded leopards. With exotic wildlife smuggling on the rise, there is a need for greater protection of animals within the parks along with stronger penalties for those caught.
For vegan travelers, visiting Malaysia is worth the experience and it will definitely expand your horizons for culture, nature, and especially food!
A fun day trying the flavors of Malaysian cooking, all vegetarian or vegan! The 41st World VegFest was held at Lake Titiwangsa in central Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on October 6 following two days of the International Vegetarian Congress seminars. Lots of great food and positive energy!
If you are seeking vegan inspiration, the Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery in central Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is a good place to visit. Guan Yin is the Buddhist goddess of compassion, and that feeling is evident within the grounds of the monastery and in the cafeteria behind the temple. I first visited the temple by accident while traveling through SE Asia after college and the food at the cafeteria motivated me to try the vegetarian lifestyle. After returning to the cafeteria many years later, the spirit is still alive and well! As usual the entire seating area filled up completely during the lunch hour, and the temple still offers free lunches twice a month on auspicious days. Eating lunch here makes for a wonderful day every time!
Make Simple Vegan Meals