Veganism in the Arab World: Will Meat Become Obsolete?
By: MacKenzie DiLeo/Arab America Contributing Writer
Individuals in Arab countries are beginning to think twice about eating beef or chicken and have adopted a more plant-based diet in recent times. Adopting a plant-based diet, otherwise known as “veganism,” means one is likely becoming more self-conscious about how their diet is affecting animals, the environment, and their own health. Going vegan has been known to offer various health benefits including weight loss and reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
As people across the globe become more aware of the rather brutal slaughtering of chickens and lambs that ultimately produce their dinners, the concept of incorporating more fruits and vegetables into their diet begins to seem more appealing. On top of the health benefits a vegan diet provides, a vegan individual is also contributing to the creation of a more sustainable environment by helping to preserve habitats and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Dietary Struggles in the Arab World
In recent times, the Arab World has seen an increase in obesity as the population indulges in more American-based fast food options like Burger King and McDonald’s. In 2016 alone, over 950 McDonald’s restaurants opened across the Middle East, which was great for the economy but not great for the health of Arab populations. Likewise, a 2015 study from the International Diabetes Federation reported that over 37 million people living with diabetes worldwide are concentrated in the Middle East.
For a long period of time, eating meat was considered an important part of Arab cuisine. Eating meats like chicken and cattle was an expectation for reasons that it was crucial to maintaining one’s health. It was even considered a luxury and often meant you and your family were of higher social status in the Arab World. For reasons as such, meat has been a crucial part of Arab cuisine. However, frequently eating red meat, in particular, has been known to increase the chances of contracting heart disease and diabetes. Despite its religious and cultural sentiment, eating meat may be contributing to the rising health dilemma in the Arab world.
The Introduction of Veganism in the Arab World
Rising health concerns in the Arab World has led to the gradual transition to veganism for certain individuals across the Arab terrain. The concept has been questionable to some who worry about consuming enough protein. However, social media has shed a positive light on the vegan diet in recent times. Young influencers who have adopted the vegan lifestyle have tried to promote the growing trend to their Arab followers in particular.
One vegan influencer is Sukkari Life who records vlogs on her YouTube channel discussing what it is like to be a vegan in Saudi Arabia. She also posts various “What I Eat in a Day” videos. In her video discussing the difficulty of what it is like to be vegan in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, she describes how easy it has become to adopt a vegan diet. She explained that coffee shops in particular are incorporating more vegan ingredients in the menus, specifically oat milk and other nut milk.
While Arab cuisine has long emphasized the use of meat in its various recipes, veganism exists at the foundation of the key ingredients used in many Arab dishes. Some examples of these ingredients include hummus (made primarily with chickpeas), baba ganouj (made with eggplant), and muhammara (made with peppers and walnuts). With the foundation already in place, the transition to veganism throughout the Arab World may not be as difficult as one would think by just replacing meat components of dishes with vegetables.
What does it take to become vegan in the Arab world?
While it is likely meat will remain a substantial element of Arab cuisine, that is not to say that veganism will not continue to grow in popularity across the various Arab countries. Adopting the vegan lifestyle in any culture is a commitment and could even be a challenge depending on the surrounding support and resources you may or may not have. The best advice would likely be to remain committed despite pressing challenges and to keep trying if you do not succeed at first. When it comes to the diet, it is about finding foods you already like and modifying them. Plenty of influencers online have shared their experiences with being vegan whether it be through YouTube videos or a blog, so be sure to check out those accounts for inspiration on how to overcome challenges and for recipe ideas.
Yes, it’s not hard to switch to veganism in the Arab World and among Arab Americans. How could it be a challenge when Arab cuisine includes healthy and delicious foods such as Hummos, baba ganouj, falafel, tabbouleh, mujaddara, lentil soup, fried kousa, eggplant, and cauliflower, and so many salads and stews that are meatless and can be scooped with Arab bread. Recipes for all of the above food may be found on www.arabamerica.com
Here are additional some great vegan Arab recipes to get you started:
Vegan Kousa Bechamel by One Arab Vegan
Vegan Cauliflower Musakhan by One Arab Vegan
Herby Falafel Shakshuka and Turmeric Drizzle by Veganuary
Quinoa Meatball Tagine by Veganuary
Check out our blog!