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About Healthy Food

vegan gajibap

We love food.

However, our journey with food has seen us making the transition from living to eat to eating to live. While our becoming vegan was primarily a rejection of the factory farming system, we soon became educated as to the health benefits of the vegan diet. Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet was a big help as she blends a vegan diet with macrobiotic concepts.

Our exploration of these ideas have resulted in several key approaches to our food:

  1. We buy organic when we can (and always buy organic from the “dirtiest dozen“- your apples, berries, leafy vegetables), and we always buy non-GMO.
  2. We avoid processed food as much as possible. One big reason for this is that Sunnie, after years of migraines, has realized that she is allergic to MSG. MSG is everywhere and goes by many names, including natural flavors, yeast extract, spices, hydrolyzed protein, textured vegetable protein, and many more.
  3. We try to eat nutritious plants, such as kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, perilla and kelp. Whole Foods does a nice job of listing the nutritional values for vegetables on the signs in their stores. We also have a nice sized (organic) garden in the backyard and not only save money by growing our own vegetables but enjoy the process as well. You wouldn’t believe how easy kale and perilla are to grow and how much you can harvest from just a little effort.
  4. We try to eat whole grains as much as possible, including brown rice (we’ve found that we like short-grain the best).
  5. We do a lot of our own cooking. Obviously, this is part of the outcome from a vegan diet as restaurant choices can sometimes be limited, but it also let’s us know what is in our food as MSG, in some form or another, shows up in a lot of restaurants, whatever their claims may be.

Apart from the ethical arguments behind a vegan diet, the health benefits are powerful, even reversing diabetes and heart disease. There are a lot of misconceptions about vegan nutrition. You get everything you need, plenty of protein, iron, and calcium, from veggies and beans. It’s a good idea to take a vegan multivitamin for your B12, but it’s a good idea to take a multivitamin anyway. The key is to eat a diet with variety, eat veggies of a variety of color. Western diets largely consist of white and brown – starch (potatoes) and meat. The dangers of this sort of nutritional base are much more significant than a plant-based diet. Bill has a family history of diabetes and heart disease and while our choice to become vegan was foremost about the animals, health is also a big part of it.

Now, as we said, we love food. We still have our vices (fried “chicken”, hot “wings”, and biscuits and gravy for Bill – all vegan of course) and certainly don’t always eat healthy food. But we pay attention to it, and we know the difference between healthy and unhealthy eating.

Luckily, a vegan Korean diet is naturally healthy. Whip up a variety of banchan, and you’ve got easy and healthy meals sitting in your fridge. Some  rice, perilla leaves, hot peppers, pepper paste and banchan make a great meal. Add some miso soup (or doenjang jigae if we’re talking Korean bean paste), and you have another alternative. Mix the banchan with sesame or perilla oil, rice, and some gochujang for bibam bap. Easy, healthy, and yummy!

We describe our path to becoming vegans on the “about us” page. If you’re not ready to commit to a vegan diet, that’s fine; a couple of years ago we would’ve never believed that we could be strict vegans either. Just start your journey, and you’ll find that it isn’t that hard. Have your family participate in meat-free Mondays with Sir Paul McCartney. Or as Alicia says, start by being a flirt, just trying out vegetarian and vegan recipes. By minimizing your meat intake, and increasing the amount of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains you eat, you will be making your diet healthier.

We did not see a great impact to our health when we became vegetarian, other than increased energy, and Sunnie felt “lighter”, not heavy in her limbs. However, our allergies went completely away, and Sunnie’s immune system was significantly boosted after we switched to vegan diets. Sunnie used to literally be sick for two weeks, healthy for one week, and sick for two weeks as her regular routine. Now, if she catches something, she’s over it in a day or two. Her migraines are completely gone as are her frequent heart burn and sinus infections. Bill has lost about 15 pounds since becoming vegan.

There are so many reasons to start your journey on a vegan diet, and your health is a big one. Let us know if you have any questions. We’d love to help out anyway we can and be part of your journey toward a healthy and kind lifestyle!

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Jayanti permalink
    March 23, 2011 2:01 pm

    i love korean food and dramas. since i don’t eat non-veg the recipes in the blog are awesome to try for vegan choices.

    • Sunnie permalink*
      April 21, 2011 9:26 am

      Hi, Jayanti!

      I hope you try a variety of Korean dishes with our recipes. Let us know how they turn out as well! :)

  2. Chandra Halma permalink
    January 29, 2012 5:18 am

    Sunnie, I live in Seoul now. I have a Korean-born boyfriend living in New York City. We loved to eat out at Franchia cafe and Hangawi Korean vegan restaurants in K-town in NYC. If you visit New York City, I would recommend eating at these restaurants if you have not already. The Korean owner at Franchia is friendly and the tea is made from fresh organic Korean fruit. The dish I enjoyed eating the most was the vegan bibimbap with the tasty sauce. Will you please give me a recipe for vegan bibimbap? Better yet, will you give me a recipe in which the flavors balance nicely with wild grain or even black rice? I am a huge fan of eating high-quality inexpensive organic black rice now that I live in Asia. Thank You!

    • Sunnie permalink*
      January 30, 2012 9:55 pm

      Hi, Chandra! Yes, we really want to visit Hangawi when we go to NYC. As for bibimbap, you can add the various namuls (kong-namul, chwi-namul, gosari-namul etc. – check our recipes) along with some sauteed carrots, zucchini and onions. Whatever you’d like. Bibimbap is really a mix of whatever you feel like type of dish. And as for wild grain or black rice, all the fancy restaurants used to serve their bibimbap with black rice, so you are right on target. But again, the ingredients you add is really up to you! We often toss in whatever namul we have as well as any other veggies we have around, there is no wrong way to make bibimbap. We like to add a good amount of perilla seed oil along with our gochujang. We like the perilla seed oil better than just sesame oil. It tastes good with both oils mixed together as well. I hope this helps!! :)

  3. Nina the Heartbeat permalink
    February 27, 2012 6:11 pm

    Hi!

    I really like your blog because it’s a good way to learn more about vegan food of a different culture, I think you are amplifying my personal spectrum of possibilities as well as the other people’s, for sure. That’s why I nominate you to the Versatile Blog Award! http://ninaandtheheartbeat.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/i-guess-i-am-versatile/

    Nina
    xx

    • Bill permalink*
      February 28, 2012 6:32 pm

      Thanks so much, Nina! Congrats on being versatile! :) So glad you enjoy the blog and love yours too!

  4. cheryl ruby permalink
    October 10, 2012 10:20 pm

    I heard about Natto and how good it is for allergies and stomache issues. My question is how much do you eat and how often do you eat it?

    • Sunnie permalink*
      October 11, 2012 5:13 pm

      Hi Cheryl! I eat it with my rice and nori (Kim) as banchan, so it is not a ton. Maybe half a tablespoon or more. But I know that many eat it for breakfast every day.

  5. February 15, 2014 6:11 am

    I am so happy I found this site! I live in Korea and was vegan for awhile but fell completely off it. This helps me so much and buying Korean ingredients is much cheaper than buying foreign one here. Thanks so much.

    • Bill permalink*
      February 16, 2014 3:00 pm

      Awesome, glad to hear!

  6. Silvia permalink
    November 4, 2014 5:53 am

    Hi guys, I feel so happy seeing this blog as I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless lately – I’m Korean born but grew up overseas, and am getting to the age where I’m having an identity crisis! A big part of it is wanting to identify as Korean, but I feel particularly disconnected in terms of the food culture. Eating meat and other animal products is such an important part of Korean culture. Do you think you could share more about your experiences in regards to this aspect? How do friends and family respond to your veganism?
    Thank you so much!

    • Bill permalink*
      November 4, 2014 8:19 am

      Hi, Silvia! Well, it’s always a process. I think it’s a balance of trying to show them your passion and commitment while not being a drag. That’s a fine line to walk, but we just do the best we can. Certainly on my side of the family, my dad grew up eating the Standard American Diet – meat and potatoes. My approach to him was through his health, which has predictably suffered on that diet, and he went vegan and is now reaping the health benefits with his heart disease and diabetes. My mom is Chinese, so while she was not so meat-centric, she nevertheless has not come around as much personally (although she does cook us vegan dishes). I get teased by one of my brothers (who incidentally will only eat meat that is processed and doesn’t look like animal parts), but my family knows how committed I am to being vegan. Sunnie has had numerous conversations with her Korean family, and while they still eat meat, they have tried to minimize how much they eat and are very respectful of our views. So it comes down to individuals. Korean cuisine certainly does not have to be meat heavy. I think the new focus on meat is a combination of its traditionally being reserved for the wealthy and the influx of American restaurants. Unfortunately, it is taking its toll. I saw a report that Korean boys are jumping up in the world rankings in terms of obesity. So don’t feel conflicted about your identity because Korean cuisine (particularly peasant foods like bibimbap) traditionally have very little meat. You can easily eat namul and all sorts of temple cuisine that are traditionally vegan. They are more traditionally vegan in my view than the meat-heavy royal cuisines that are more popular now (and contributed to the early death of King Sejong, btw). Thanks for finding us and congratulations on making a commitment to compassion! Now just communicate that passion and people will either understand or they won’t. That’s a universal vegan issue – not just with Koreans! It is becoming more visible, and celebrities like Lee Hyori are familiarizing the population at large with the issues. The tide is turning, and our numbers are growing, so it’s only going to get easier from here on out!

      • Silvia permalink
        November 4, 2014 9:05 am

        I think you certainly have the right attitude Bill! Your positive outlook is so great. Well done in making positive changes within your family. For their health and animals too! It’s stories like those that give me just the slightest bit of hope.
        Unfortunately for me, in the real world, I feel like it’s all a bit bleak. I am very passionate about a cruelty-free lifestyle, but those close to me are not, and I don’t even expect my mother to understand. She does cook vegan for me when I see her but I don’t think she would be willing to change her own diet or lifestyle to any extent. The most difficult part is that my partner does not share the same views as I do (according to him, animals were put here for us to eat…). So I often feel quite negatively about the state of the world and feel like I struggle alone fighting a losing battle. However, I feel that within the Western community there is at least a growing awareness for these issues, but I rarely, or actually never until today, had found any kind of Asian vegans like myself! I can’t believe someone as mainstream as Lee Hyori went public about being veg, that’s really great!

        I feel socially isolated by my veganism, and I also feel isolated by being a Korean that was brought up the Western way, both by westerners and especially by other Koreans, so the interaction of these two things have been really hard on me, but it’s nice to have found people that may be able to understand my situation a little bit.
        I’m not sure if you guys live(d) in Korea, but I plan to go in the somewhat near future. Are people generally receptive and cooperative?

        I do apologise for the very long and rather negative comment, and also thank you so much for your reply, it means a lot to me!

      • Bill permalink*
        November 8, 2014 8:40 pm

        Yes, you are certainly right that people tend to be more aware of veganism in the West, but awareness is growing in Korea. We might get funny looks when we order in Korea, and occasionally you’ll get the ahjumma telling you the soon dubu won’t be any good without the sea animals in it, but you’re the customer, so they’ll listen to you and do what you want as long as you assure them that it’s fine, and that’s what you want. Plus, there are a quite a few vegan restaurants in Seoul, and when you add in the temple food restaurants, there are a lot of places where you don’t even need to worry about it. I’m not as versed with availability outside of Seoul, but I’d encourage you to visit the Vegan Korea Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/veganKOREA/ where you can get a lot of questions answered, since we only visit and don’t live in Korea. Also, as is the case with most vegans, the Internet is where we need to turn to get our support. Luckily, with the growth of veganism, there are more and more people to connect to, but it can be nice to have places to vent. There are some great vegan humor groups, and if your partner’s argument is a biblically-based one, there are even Christian vegan groups where you can find the Bible verses that counter his arguments (besides, ownership does not supersede compassion – have him watch Earthlings and see if he thinks that type of dominion is acceptable). Sunnie and I went vegan together (she went vegetarian first), so we have always been there to support each other, which does make it easier. But you are certainly not alone in your struggle, so I’d find some vegan communities online and others can share their experiences!

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