It’s hard not to become vegetarian once you’ve met vegan expert Susianto.
First, the 43-year-old coordinator for the International Vegetarian Union in Asia Pacific will take you through mountains of scientific data from reputable institutions that shows vegetarianism is good for your health.
Second, having spent half his life as a vegetarian, Susianto is the living proof that eating plants and not meat does wonders to your body and appearance.
Indeed, when The Jakarta Post met Susianto recently, his skin was healthy and bright, and he looked younger than his age.
The man, who just received a doctorate from the University of Indonesia for his research on Tempeh, has been a vegetarian for 23 years. He stopped eating meat while he was studying for a bachelor degree in Yogyakarta, majoring in Chemistry at the University of Gadjah Mada.
“I became vegetarian in my second year of college. At that time, I had carried out some analysis on food and discovered many toxic substances in meat,” Susianto said.
Being a vegetarian can prolong your life, he went on.
“Look at what happens to the vegans of Hunza in Pakistan, who live on average more than 100 years, compared to Eskimos whose life expectancy is much shorter because they eat meat every day,” Susianto explained.
Thanks to his background in food chemistry and public health, Susianto knows why these things happen.
“Meat produces acids that are harmful to the body, while plants produce the opposite,” he said, quoting a number of trusted sources such as international scientists and vegan experts.
Realizing how harmful meat products and their derivatives could be, Susianto then decided to go full throttle on his diet and became a vegan, which means he stopped eating eggs and dairy products too.
“People who eat meat and smoke have a 70 percent chance of having a heart attack, and a 50 percent chance if they don’t smoke. Then, it will reduce insignificantly to 39 percent, should they be vegetarian but it will continue to drop to 14 percent if they are vegan,” the man, who has been a vegan since 2006, explained.
Susianto is an ardent advocate of veganism. The author of The Miracle of Vegan has made it his life’s mission to convince people to give up their unhealthy diets and start a new life as vegetarians or maybe vegans.
He first started spreading the word in his family.
“My mom became vegetarian after I did. My first child has been vegan since she turned 10. At first everyone in the family was vegetarian, but after I became vegan, they all followed suit, including my wife. She even gave birth to our second child as a vegan,” shared Susianto, who believes his 11-month baby Vegania Paramita is his highest achievement so far in being a vegan.
“I can now prove it’s ok for pregnant women to be vegan. Look how healthy she is,” he said, pointing to a picture of a little baby with plump cheeks on his mobile phone screen.
The chief operation officer of Indonesia Vegetarian Society then went on to spread the word among his work colleagues and lecturers at university.
“They already knew that meat wasn’t good for one’s health, but they didn’t change their eating habits until they met me and saw the results I had come up with,” he said, referring to his professors at the University of Indonesia.
His devotion to spread the word about the benefits of veganism was more than apparent during his interview. He took the Post for lunch to a veggie restaurant. For almost an hour he explained everything that was good about being a vegan, while showing all the supporting data on his laptop.
He also debunked a few myths related to plant-based diets, referring to recent research and analysis.
“The best source of calcium is sesame seeds, not milk, and you can get your best protein in tempeh not meat,” he said, while cracking a few jokes during the discussion.
“If husbands don’t want their wives to slap them around anymore, they should feed them tempeh,” he said, as tempeh has been proved to neutralize women’s mood swings during menopause.
Even though he seems to know everything about vegetarianism, having memorized all the data and analysis, he doesn’t sound preachy, and makes the conversation about his favorite topic enjoyable and light.
But behind all this fun persona, Susianto is also a hard-working man who wants to keep thing organized and planned.
“I finished my doctoral after only two and a half years. That’s because I made sure everything was planned.”
And what’s his next plan? Susianto wants to release his third book The Miracle of Tempe, which draws upon results from his doctoral dissertation.
During the interview, Susianto said he had reached a point where everything in his life was about vegetarianism.
“I was destined to be a vegan,” said Susianto, who was born on Oct. 1, which is also the world’s vegetarian day.
His next challenge is to spread the word about healthy eating habits to other people.
“It will be a challenge for people who don’t have will power. As long as you are strong willed, then it [becoming a vegetarian] will not be a problem.”