JEDDAH: Although vegans are facing daily stereotypes regarding their dietary habits, the number of young people in the Kingdom shifting to an animal-free diet is rising.
The trend has been attributed to Saudis’ health concerns, especially with obesity.
Research has revealed that more than 40 percent of Saudi citizens are obese.
Online awareness campaigns are helping vegans to share their experiences with their eating habits. Several young Saudis were convinced to follow plant-based diets after watching the “Plant B” program during Ramadan.
The show is a bilingual web series starring Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian surgeon. It explained the importance and the benefit of veganism on human health.
The number of restaurants and home businesses that are serving vegan options are increasing every day.
Raneem Al-Qurashi, 17, is a student and owner of the Nabati online business. She turned to veganism two years ago. She said: “I used to eat a generally healthy diet. So, when I turned vegan, I did not feel much of a difference. However, I did feel a lot lighter after meals, since meat takes a long time to digest.
“I started this business out of my own needs for healthy vegan baked goods in Jeddah, about a year ago, there were little to no vegan options in Jeddah, and even if there were, it was usually overpriced.”
Al-Qurashi believes that veganism and plant-based diets are growing in Saudi Arabia. People have become more aware and conscious about their decisions and how it might affect their health, environment and animals.
Jawan Kudus, a 32-year-old entrepreneur and the founder of Raw Instinct, is vegan in her diet, but she has to try non-vegan dishes for culinary purposes, to acquire knowledge of new tastes and combinations. She started her vegan journey in 2009, while she was studying in London.
Kudus said: “I discovered the raw food diet and fell in love with it, it was like a breakthrough in my life. I learned to eat superfoods without sacrificing taste. Then I explored cooked vegan dishes and continued to experiment in the kitchen. It really transformed the way I eat and approach my diet. I believe veganism helps you become your true and best version of yourself.”
Abdullah Ghazi, a clinical psychologist and marriage therapist, explained that he had been a vegan for the last six months. He started by trying vegan dishes at restaurants, then trying to commit to a vegan meal a day. Eventually, his whole diet became vegan.
Ghazi said: “I was trying to find a better lifestyle because I’m getting into my 30s. Since I have a medical background, I could not try something new without doing my homework, and what I found was very encouraging. Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower heart disease mortality rates.”