Joe Ma Turns to a Plant-Based Diet

Influenced by his wife, the actor has been making major adjustments to his diet for health reasons.

After eating meat for more than half his life, Joe Ma (馬德鐘) switched to a plant-based diet two years ago and saw a marked improvement in his health. “I don’t want to change my lifestyle only when my body’s alarm bells start ringing, and hope to start maintaining a good diet while my health is fine,” the 52-year-old actor said.

While there are different interpretations in vegetarian diets, Joe shared, “Some vegetarians would only eat rice, cooked vegetables, and eggs and suffer from poor nutrition. You must know what nutrients your body needs in order to sustain it, and then get different nutrients from different plants.”

The actor said that his decision to switch to a plant-based diet in middle age is in part motivated by his own parents’ and close friends’ demise. Joe decided to be proactive in his food choices. “My parents started to have diabetes, high blood pressure, and other issues in their fifties and sixties. I saw how they had to take lots of long-term medications in the last decades of their lives. I don’t want to wait for something to be wrong with my body to start changing my lifestyle.”

The actor also saw many friends around his age passing away from cancer, due to over consumption of meat. “Having reached the midpoint of my life, I hope to keep myself in tip-top condition.”

Wife Prepares Their Daily Meals

Joe’s wife Karen Cheung (張筱蘭), who is an Assistant Professor at Hong Kong University specializing on research on health and longevity, turned vegetarian a year before influencing Joe to also make the switch. “As it is her field of study, she gained a lot of knowledge from research on health and longevity. Some people live to a long age, but spend 10 or 20 years being sick and tormented by illness. My dad had to take different medications, until his kidneys accumulated too much toxins and he had to go for dialysis. This is just a vicious circle. It’s best if we can treat ourselves, and prevent illness through our daily habits.”

At home, Karen would prepare their daily meals. Joe said, “We don’t eat white rice, and replace it with a mix of brown rice, pasta, and oats to get sufficient nutrients and stabilize our blood sugar, which energizes our bodies and makes us feel better too. Conversely, the acidic content in meat leads one to feel fatigued and enervated,” he explained.

Fell Sick Less Frequently Since Changing His Diet

Before changing his diet, Joe used to suffer from throat infection and tonsillitis every two months, and also had skin-related problems such as allergies, itches, and peeling. In the last two years, Joe realized he seldom fell ill after changing his diet. “The right diet would cause less pain and aches in your body. Of course you may still see such symptoms occasionally, but it is a great improvement on the whole,” he said.

As for how he turned his carnivorous diet around after 50 years of eating meat, Joe advised to take it slow. “Since young, I had not inculcated the right knowledge in myself. Actually, we can do without meat in our diets.” First cutting beef and pork out of his diet, Joe went on to abstain from chicken and seafood.

“We’re not doing this for religious reasons, so we don’t have to force ourselves. We made the transition over a few months and it was really easy as your body would give you signals. Watching a lot of documentaries makes you see how scary and unhygienic slaughterhouses are. Slowly, your body would tell you that you don’t need meat, and your cravings would also disappear.”

Vegetables Can Be Delicious Too

Despite his commitment to his new vegetarian diet, there were occasions when Joe ate meat mistakenly, especially at friends’ social gatherings, but he would not stop friends from ordering what they wanted.

Clarifying a popular misconception that becoming a vegetarian would lower one’s energy levels, the athletic actor said, “This is an illusion–maybe many people’s vegetarian diets are not nutritious enough. If you obtain sufficient nutrients from different fruits, vegetables, nuts and mushrooms, your energy and strength levels will be definitely better than eating meat!”

Luckily for Joe, Karen would prepare tasty vegetarian meals using different cooking methods, serving up curry, sushi, and even baked delicacies. He shared, “Don’t think of going vegetarian as something sad. You must make it delicious and not resist it, so you’ll crave the food every day, except that it’s not meat.”

Source: Hket

This article is written by JoyceK for

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