TAMPA, Fla. — More Black Americans are choosing plants. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 8% of African Americans identify as vegan or vegetarian compared to just 3% of the general population.
Many people of color say they switched to a plant-based diet for the environment, animal rights and their health.
Levi Tafari is the owner of The Good Life Food Truck in St. Petersburg. The business opened a little more than a year ago with a goal to veganize familiar foods. Tafari said he thinks more people of color are switching over to a plant-based diet because of the increase of information about nutrition currently available. “In this era, the age of information, I think people realize that it’s in the food we eat. It plays a role in our health.”
Meanwhile, across the Bay in Tampa, Nick Alami is the owner of The Vegan Halal Cart with an all-vegan menu of gyros, wraps and shawarmas. He said about 40% to 60% of his clients are people of color. “It’s definitely growing in terms of people of color who want to participate more in a plant-based diet,” said Alami.
Jean Oriol says he switched over to a plant-based diet four years ago to improve his health. “I could never forget my doctor, he was like, ‘you look like a Lamborghini with bad parts in it.’ And that changed my life,” said Oriol.
Family physician Dr. Ana Negrón explained the connection between what we eat and our overall health: “It has nothing to do with our genes. It has to do with the way we treat our genes. So, if the African Americans or the Latinos are associated with hypertension and kidney disease or diabetes and obesity, it’s really not because we were made that way. It’s because we made ourselves that way.”
In fact, the Journal of the American Heart Association conducted a study over the span of 32 years, they found that those who had a mostly plant-based diet were 52% less likely to develop heart issues.
One of the reasons for the growing trend in Black Americans adopting a plant-based diet is social media. Shad Durant has a growing YouTube channel called the Chuckie Vegan where he teaches viewers how to veganize their favorite foods at home with a baby spoon. “It was just like, yo, I got tree pots going at the same time. Let me just hurry up and grab something to ‘stir, stir, bur, bur’ real quick. Then it [the baby spoon] just turned into a symbol of hope. Just the symbol that you can do anything you put your mind to. You don’t need the proper tools because what is the proper tools?”
That is the message many people of color, who advocate for a plant-based diet, want to spread. You do not have to give up cultural foods that you grew up with because there is almost always a way to veganize it and make it healthier.
If you are looking for a healthy vegan recipe, check out Anthony’s southern-inspired dish of collard greens. He shared his tricks on how to season the collard greens so that it still tastes familiar to what we are all used to.