Being healthy the vegan way

Rizal Faisal

Hailing from Lisbon, Portugal, Isabel Lopes has been living in Brunei Darussalam with her husband and their two daughters for more than five years.

She has studied macrobiotics at the Kushi Macrobiotic School in Japan and the Macrobiotic Institute of Portugal under the guidance of internationally recognised Macrobiotic teachers, counsellors and health advocates.

In addition to being a Vegan and Macrobiotic Cook Instructor and a Health and Lifestyle Counsellor, Isabel is also the founder of The Healthy Pantry Project, an initiative established in Brunei since 2018 with the aim to promote and teach macrobiotics and vegan healthy food.

She has conducted workshops and presents talks on natural fermentation, macrobiotic food, and the relation between food, health, and environment.

It started a few years ago when, after being diagnosed with a thyroid cancer, Isabel changed her lifestyle. She eliminated sugar and dairy products from her diet as she knew that many health problems were diet-related. She stopped eating meat as she believes that chronic diseases and environmental problems can be minimised by embracing a plant-based lifestyle.

“Vegan diet is the most advanced and effective way to reduce our foot print in the environment,” Isabel said during an interview with the Bulletin.

Isabel Lopes serves her customers during an event. PHOTO: THE HEALTHY PANTRY PROJECT

She and her family have made the transition to a vegan diet which resulted in the improvement of their health and well-being.

Her goal is to dedicate her time to Macrobiotic studies, practising a healthy lifestyle and help others with their health through a plant-based diet.

Since 2018, Isabel has conducted 16 sessions of sourdough bread workshops, eight sessions of vegan and macrobiotic classes, three workshops about baking with natural fermentation and five inspirational/informative talks about food and sustainable environment. More than 250 people in Brunei had joined her classes and were inspired by her passion for health and a sustainable lifestyle that protects the environment.

“Creating an awareness about health and environment is not only a political and governmental responsibility but it is also my concern as a citizen of the world,” she said. In her talks she shares her experience in living a sustainable lifestyle, based on a balanced relationship between food, health and the environment.

“In macrobiotics, we try to live according to the spirit of ‘One Grain, Ten Thousand Grains’. This timeless principle taught me the valuable lesson of having endless gratitude for what I’ve been receiving and learning,” she added.

“Everything in our planet is connected and if we don’t address the warming of the planet, we will lose this ecosystem and millions of people will suffer.”

Isabel also said that her ability to create new recipes gives her a sense of accomplishment for sharing her knowledge that help empower Bruneians to live compassionately without consuming animal products.

Eating vegan macrobiotic foods also means giving preference of using locally grown and organic ingredients whenever possible. Buying from local farmers can help reduce human carbon footprint and improves the quality of food.

Isabel encourages people to consider the factors when consuming imported products. It is important to know about the products by reading its ingredients, processing methods, origin, nutrition facts, certifications, and even consider the carbon-footprint and sustainability involved in its production.

According to Isabel, her understanding of the energetic nature of foods, cooking styles, and creating dynamic, healthful meal plans, “are the right tools to make a mindful and conscientious change into our lifestyle”. Isabel added that “the mission of The Healthy Pantry Project is a programme designed to remind us of our responsibility to ourselves, and to the planet we borrow from our children.

“We need to do something now to ensure a better future. If we can change our diet, we can change the world.”