“That is not ‘soul food,’ [it is] destroying souls. A lot of people think a real good, wholesome meal is when you sit back bloated and full and nod off. To me, soul food is food that adds to your spirit, gives you energy, gives you life, and helps you feel vibrant.” -Ishmael Shakur, black American and 6 year vegetarian
Black Americans are trending towards becoming vegetarians and vegans more now. Have you noticed this trend? Surely, you’ve had to notice the health statistics that show alarmingly high rates of heart disease and other food related illnesses in the United States, with Americans of African ancestry in or near the lead among racial groups. According to Toledo Blade it’s not just meatlessness on the rise, more Black folks are also skipping the dairy, fish, eggs, and honey too.
There have been many examinations of and challenges too “soul food” and the African American diet in recent years from filmmaker Byron Hurt’s eye-opening Soul Food Junkies to books like By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat by Tracye Lynn McQuirter. Many have been conscious of not just taking away one idea towards food for the black community but replacing it with another healthier one.
Health, however, isn’t the only reason an African American, or anyone else might go meatless. Toledo Blade reports some are inspired by others to make the change while others simply lost their desire to eat meat. You may ask how is that possible? Fried chicken stereotypes aside some black Americans interviewed said they had difficulty with the idea of an animal losing its life for their meal or they were never big meat eaters in the first place so becoming a vegetarian wasn’t a huge sacrifice or change.
It’s important to note there are many reasons why one may opt out of eating meat and animal products. The desire to stop participating in the environmental degradation and animal abuse involved with industrial meat production is plenty reason enough. If you need more there’s also genetically modified meat fears, the health risks due to the massive food recalls that are now becoming commonplace in the U.S.
To be clear, vegetarians do not eat meat but there are many types of them. “Lacto vegetarians eat dairy products but not eggs; ovo vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products; lacto-ovo vegetarians eat both eggs and dairy products, and vegans do not eat honey or any animal products whatsoever. Also, pescetarians eat seafood but no other flesh.”
So what about the vegans? Vegans do not eat the flesh of any animal nor do they consume any animal products such as eggs, seafood, honey, or milk. Although it isn’t cited in the source article many African Americans are actually lactose intolerant. New nationwide trends in increased health awareness may have led these new vegans of color to go sans dairy then extend it further from there. It should be noted that dairy sales are sharply declining nationwide. Some possible reasons include because the cost of a gallon of milk has gone up, industrial milk production is at least as heinous as industrial meat production, and as grist.org said “perhaps because we aren’t all babies”.
What’s an article about vegans and vegetarians without a discussion about protein? The two ideas need not necessarily be linked every time but it is a common concern for those who are curious about the shift to a plant based diet. The answer to the protein question is there are many non animal sources of protein like fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts.
There are likely no statistics on how many black vegetarians and vegans there are in the U.S. but anecdotally, do you agree going meatless is on the rise in the black community? If you’re a black vegan or vegetarian how did that come to be?