June 7, 2010
In our seemingly never-ending quest to lose weight and eat more healthfully, Black women have a new motivating resource and guide in Tracye McQuirter and her recently released book, By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat.
A nutritionist and 20-year vegan with a master’s of public health nutrition from New York University, Tracye is co-founder of BlackVegetarians.org and the Black Vegetarian Society of New York. She shares the message in her new book that a plant-based diet without meat, dairy or eggs, is the best for Black women’s health.
If you’re already thinking, “Forget it! I’ve got to have my meat, ice cream, butter, or cheese!” read on. Tracye has a message that everyone can benefit from. She busts the nutritional myths about protein and dairy, and will definitely have you thinking twice about your food choices. The fact is, our health is at stake and we may need to consider revolutionary changes to reclaim wellness … by any greens necessary.
Why do you think the vegan diet is the best choice for people, especially black women?
A vegan diet can help you live longer. It can help you prevent and even reverse chronic diseases. The world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals agrees that a plant-based diet is the healthiest. The information is not disputed; it’s just not widely promoted. A vegan diet is not just about living longer and disease free – it can also improve your quality of life, and it can help protect the planet.
Black women, we’re fabulous, but we have the worst health [among other demographics of women]. We’re in a crisis situation, so we can’t tip toe around this issue. Eighty percent of us are overweight and 50 percent of us are obese. We’re the heaviest group in the nation and we have the diabetes and other chronic diseases that come with that.
Also, I want to say something about children. The issue with our kids is that our diet or what we eat is not just about black women, but it’s obviously going to be about our families as well because we’re feeding them. So when black women improve our health, we’re improving the health of our families, our partners, our children, and our communities. Our health can be improved by something as simple and profound as eating a plant-based diet.
In the introduction of the book, you talk about “liberating the way one thinks about food.” Explain what you mean by that. Why do some of us need to change the way we think about food?
What I mean is that if you change your mind, your mouth will follow. What you eat starts not on your plate, but in the way you think. So people believe that they have enough information to make informed choices about what they’re eating, but the reality is we make choices based on food advertising.
The food industry spends more than $35 billion a year to dictate what we choose to eat. So, most of us are not making informed choices right now. We’re making choices based on increasing the profit of the food industry rather than to improve our health.
So what I want to do is provide information about what we know at this point is the healthiest way to eat — plant-based foods — so people can make more informed decisions. For me, it is not so much that I want people to be vegan, but I want folks to have the best information to decide what to do. It is absolutely crucial that we have the information to make those better choices. That’s liberating.
What would you say to someone who doesn’t want to be or isn’t ready to be vegan or vegetarian, but who still wants to eat healthfully?
I would say, start where you are and add more plant-based foods to your current diet. So for example, try to eat three pieces of whole fruit a day, and try to have vegetables on your plate at least twice a day. The majority of Americans don’t do that. You’ll see huge improvements just starting there. If you’re eating white rice or pasta, try brown rice or whole wheat pasta; eat whole grains instead of refined grains.
So often, those of us who are not vegetarian find it kind of odd to think about not eating animals because of animal rights or reasons of compassion. What can you say that will help people to consider a vegetarian or vegan diet for these reasons?
That’s a great question. Dick Gregory, who influenced me and thousands of others to become vegetarian, actually started being a vegetarian because of his involvement in the civil rights movement and his belief in non-violence. He extended that belief to animals. As I quote in my book from Dick Gregory’s memoir, Callus on My Soul, he wrote:
“Under the leadership of Dr. King, I became totally committed to non-violence, and I was convinced that non-violence meant opposition to killing in any form.”
For many people, vegetarian or veganism is a natural extension of being against violence, including the violence historically committed against black people.
Lastly, what are some of your favorite recipes from the book?
My favorite recipes in the book are the Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake, Spicy Black Beans, and All Hail the Kale Salad. The All Hail the Kale Salad, in particular, has been the most popular dish at potlucks I bring it to.
Check out these vegan and vegetarian recipes featured on FlavorDiva.com
(v) Vegan, (veg) Vegetarian and can be easily converted to vegan
Apple Pecan Salad with Cider Vinaigrette (veg)
Braised Cabbage (veg)
Butternut Squash Soup (v)
Chole Curry & Pulao (v)
Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup (v)
Fresh String Beans & Cherry Tomatoes (v)
Golden Couscous (v)
Papa al Pomodoro (Italian Bread & Tomato Soup) (v)
Quinoa Millet Hot Cereal (v)
Roasted Curry Spiced Pecans (v)
Sautéed Asparagus (v)
Spring Fresh, Summer Ready Pasta Salad (v)
Summer Fresh Marinara Sauce (v)
South African Mashed Pumpkin (veg)
Toasty Homemade Granola (veg)
Tortilla Soup (veg)
Tuscan White Bean Soup (veg)
Warm Fingerling Potato Salad (veg)