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    Black Women, You Can Take Your Power Back If You Eat a Plant-Based Diet

    Eating a plant-based diet messes with the feel-good foods we need right now. Am I right, ladies?

    It’s been a rough few months during quarantine, and I’ve never seen so much food being shared across social networks and via text.

    Cooking was necessary because for one, we did not have any other option with restaurants shut down, and two, some of us had way more time on our hands. Also, some women were using it as a tool to quell their anxiety and depression that was a side effect to the new quarantine rules and COVID-19 outbreaks.

    I think everyone was cooking up a storm, trying new recipes, and spending way too much on food since March. (Let’s not talk about how much grocery budgets went up in the last three months. Whew, chile! Ridiculous!)

    We could talk about that in another post.

    I’m not particularly a fan of the kitchen, and I know being from the Caribbean that isn’t really typical, but hey, I’m just not, and btw this is supposed to be a no-judgment zone. So stop judging! Lol.

    Anyway, because I had a lot of time at the beginning of quarantine, I spent a major part of it doing research and was startled when the media started blasting the stats about COVID-19 and the black community.

    Then, AATS engaged in a ‘How to Stay Healthy During The New Normal’ webinar with Dr. Shavon, Naturopathic physician, and best-selling author, and it was then that I came to understand a big fact about melanin.

    via GIPHY

    Being Black and Healthy

    Dr. Shavon emphasized the importance of Immunity Health and what foods we can eat to ensure a healthy diet and provide the vitamins and minerals we lack. it was a timely discussion and had many takeaways.

    Determined not to contract coronavirus and get my immunity together, I delved deeper into research and landed on WebMD, which reminded me that because I’m black my precious Melanin causes skin pigmentation, and lowers my skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.

    Wow Surprised GIF from Wow GIFs

    So, let me see if you understand this…our blackness, this melanin we own is so rich that it causes us to be deficient in Vitamin D. So much for #melaninpoppin

    Poppin’ off more like it. Thank you, WebMD!

    With all of this fact and truth staring you in the face, how do we move forward being and doing better?

    Black women have survived all kinds of injustices on this earth, but to survive this and other pandemics, we need to be ready.

    So how can we achieve this?

    A DC-based public health nutritionist thinks she has the answer but acknowledges that remedying the problem could take generations, if not forever.

    Eat a Plant-Based Diet. It’s  a Simple Solution to Aging Gracefully

    Tracye Lynn McQuirter knows about racial disparities in health outcomes. She understands how centuries of systemic racism created and sustain the inequities. She helps create programs and pushes for policies that will help residents to overcome food obstacles.

    She also works with various community groups throughout the Washington DC area, helping to analyze systemic issues that prevent access to education about nutritious foods as well as the food itself.

    She believes there are things that African Americans can do to boost their outcomes, starting by eating a healthy diet. She believes nothing would have a greater and more immediate impact.

    As we know, the top four killers in the black community are heart disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lung disease.

    She recently told the Washington Post…

    “It is crucial that we not tiptoe around this issue. People have the power to take back their health based on what they eat.”

    She advises a whole-food, plant-based diet, eating more leafy greens; eat more fruits and vegetables.

    McQuirter’s 83-year-old mother has seen benefits since she became a vegan at 50. 

    She emphasizes that she has no chronic diseases, is on no medications, exercises six days a week and her doctors say she has the health someone of 53.

    So in essence, she has reversed her health and only aged healthwise after 3 years of being a vegan!! That’s a testimony!

    In 2018, McQuirter wrote the Ageless Vegan, where she and her Mom share their secrets for maintaining radiant health for more than 30 years, 100 of their favorite plant-based recipes that have kept them looking and feeling ageless, breakdown the basics of nutrition, how to build a vegan pantry, and how to make sure you’re getting the best nutrients to promote longevity and prevent chronic disease. 

    She shares the best message for moving forward post-pandemic. 

    She says, “The virus has put in stark relief the need to really get serious about what we eat. This is not about boosting immunity to survive a pandemic. It’s about getting healthy. Improving our health is political activism.” 

    In case you’re confused about the differences between plant-based vs. vegan, here’s a chart to help you out. 

    plant-based diet vs vegan

    Based on the above infographic, vegan means no animal protein at all, while plant-based leaves the option totally open.

    Brianna, a young Gen-Z, shares her transition to a plant-based diet.

    In hindsight, I can say that my transition to a plant-based lifestyle was gradual until it wasn’t. 

    Before I knew it, my plate was filled with a lot more greens and nutrient-dense foods. As gradual and monumental as the change in what I ate was, I seldom took time to acknowledge the transition and assess what it means for me. My plant-based diet is predicated on my own intuition and corporeal sensations.

    I had always been wary when it came to eating heavily processed foods, meat, or other animal by-products. I am unsure of where this came from, but it surely made adapting to a plant-based lifestyle a lot easier for me. When I started cooking more for myself in high school I would make single and family meals. 

    Experimenting with Cooking Plant-Based

    This was when I started to experiment with cooking and educating myself both which have unlocked this unabated love for both food and cooking. 

    My initial goals were to cook consciously which meant what one might think it means. For example, baking instead of frying, olive oil instead of vegetable oil, and less white flour to state a few. I would eventually start to cook less meat and eat a lot more compound fruit or vegetable meals. In the early stages of my journey, I was restricting myself from eating things because they were “bad” and eating more of certain things because they were “healthier” by popular convention. 

    In retrospect following these conventions were draining, but at the time these rules of structure guided me. As cliche as these things sound, they set the foundation for me. Because I had labeled things as “good” and “bad”, “healthy” and “unhealthy”, I thought I had an unwavering semblance of what it meant to be healthy. 

    Labeling is Not Necessarily Good

    However, the problem with labeling is that it’s rigid and quite suffocating. Besides, at the time, I never labeled myself as vegan or vegetarian, though I truly could have for some time. So, I figured I shouldn’t feel so compelled to label my foods with radical terminology.

    One thing about a plant-based diet is that it can encompass all of these labeled diets or it doesn’t have to at all. Your diet is simply what you eat, so for me, I choose to keep it simple. 

    While I do still place restrictions on the things I consume, I make sure that things I do consume will do my body well more than it will do my body harm. This encompasses remedial ideas about nutrition values but more importantly how my body physically feels. It just so happens that I feel a lot more enlightened consuming meals that consist of whole foods that I know will grant me an abundance of health and energy. 

    Benefits of Eating Pant-Based

    The other thing about a plant-based diet is that it doesn’t shun animal products that we may all love to enjoy like butter or eggs. Though I tend to consume these things a lot less, when I do, I am always making a conscious decision in doing so. With all these things in mind, I have prioritized listening to my body when making decisions about what to eat. 

    My plant-based plate looks just what it sounds like—based on plants. Most importantly my plant-based diet is personal which means that it looks different for everyone. 

    My mentality at the beginning of my journey has evolved, and if you think about it the thing that results from evolution is telling of where it comes from. So, I do still hold some of the same mentalities that still serve me. The versatility of my plant-based diet allows its adaptation to be a lot easier than you might think. 

    You can literally make a plant-based side dish to incorporate in your meals with items you may probably already have. For example, stew lentils. 

    Below is a simple lentil peas recipe Brianna shares and that Dr. Shavon recommended in making her case for Immunity Health during the pandemic.

    lentil soup AATS

    *This is a loose recipe meant to be used as a guide

    Ingredients:

    1 cup lentils

    Water or stock of your choosing

    Chopped vegetables (celery, carrots, tomatoes)

    Seasonings of your choice

    ½ an onion

    2 cloves of garlic

    Heavy bottom pot

    Directions:

    1. Soak lentils overnight or for a few minutes the day of
    2. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent
    3. Mix lentils into pot 
    4. Pour water in a pot a few inches above the surface of the lentils. 
    5. Add seasoning and chopped veggies
    6. Cover the pot and let lentils cook on low heat 

    Voila! Lentils on your plate! A healthy wholesome plant-based dish that you can have with a baked potato or healthy carb of your choice.

    Brianna Lackwood

    Brianna Lackwood is a creative student studying Linguistics and African American studies. One of her joys is cooking a good plant-based meal and eating it of course. She loves to experiment with her foods, often combining traditions from her Caribbean and Central American roots. If she’s not in the kitchen she’s probably reading, singing, or working out. One of her favorite dishes is Curry Chana and Potatoes which she especially enjoys with Dhal Puri or Paratha Roti. She is an advocate for intuitive eating and wants to continue to honor her blackness either by continuing to share her work with her community or offering a space mutual space for curiosity and advice through her Instagram page @chickpea.baby. She hopes to continue to pursue the intersections of all of her lines of creative and academic passions.

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