Oriental medicine favors vegetarianism

Oriental medical practitioner and nutritionist Sang Hyun-joo believes the benefits of a vegetarian diet are numerous, including positive physical and emotional changes, as well as a reduced potential for disease.

Sun is a strict vegetarian, does not consume animal products, and denounces the unethical and environmentally harmful nature of the meat industry, especially the heavy use of additives.

“Most people are not aware of the high levels of antibiotics, hormones and persistent organic pollutants in animal products,” she said.

She is also the secretary of Vegedoktor, an organization of vegetarian doctors in Korea. Sang Hyun-joo believes that the perception of vegetarianism in Korea is changing.

“Ten years ago, many of my colleagues thought I was eccentric,” she said. “At present, I feel that increased awareness has led to respect for vegetarianism.”

Due to the FMD outbreak last year, the media in Korea inadvertently ran a surprisingly effective publicity campaign for vegetarianism. As a result, we are seeing a spike in traffic to vegetarian sites, such as the Korean Vegetarian Union website. The average website traffic – between 3000 and 4000 visitors a day – jumped to 15 last winter.

However, sticking to a plant-based diet in a country known around the world for its barbecue isn’t easy, and Sang Hyun-joo reveals the challenges that await those who choose to give up meat.

“We are limited in the choice of dishes in restaurants,” she said. “With the exception of housewives and toddlers, most people eat once or twice a day and most restaurants serve meat or fish. Seasonings often include animal ingredients, so a strict vegetarian diet is hard to follow.”

Sang Hyun-ju also pointed out that the standard social, school and military meals include meat or fish.

“Korean dining culture is a formidable hurdle for vegetarians. Corporate hangouts and related fees are based on alcohol, meat and fish dishes. A different way of eating brings disharmony and creates problems,” she explained.

Sang Hyun Zhu believes that the belief in the inferiority of a vegetarian diet is an unfounded delusion.

“The main nutrients that can be expected to be deficient in a vegetarian diet are proteins, calcium, iron, vitamin 12,” she explained. “However, this is a myth. A serving of beef contains 19 mg of calcium, but sesame and kelp, for example, contain 1245 mg and 763 mg of calcium, respectively. In addition, the rate of absorption of calcium from plants is higher than from animal food, and excessive phosphorus content in animal food prevents calcium absorption. Calcium from vegetables interacts with the body in perfect harmony.”

Sang Hyun-joo added that most Koreans can easily get their B12 intake from plant-based foods such as soy sauce, soybean paste and seaweed.

Sang Hyun Joo currently lives in Seoul. She is ready to answer questions related to vegetarianism, you can write to her at:


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