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How a nutritionist is helping 10,000 Black women go vegan

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33-year vegan and nutritionist Tracye McQuirter is helping 10,000 Black women go vegan to mark the 10-year anniversary of her book, By Any Greens Necessary.

Tracye McQuirter, a public health nutritionist, bestselling author and vegan for 33 years, has launched the 10,000 Black Vegan Women movement in celebration of the tenth anniversary of her critically acclaimed first book, By Any Greens Necessary, the first vegan diet book for Black women.

The programme is completely free. It starts on October 5 with a series of 21-Day Vegan Fresh Starts, which include meal plans, recipes, grocery shopping lists, meal prep tips, nutrition basics, cooking videos, and an online community of support.

McQuirter has been vegan for decades, transitioning at a time when perceptions of the diet weren’t very positive or well-known. “When I was a sophomore at Amherst College in 1986, our Black Student Union brought Dick Gregory to campus to talk about the political, economic and social state of Black America,” says McQuirter. “Instead, he talked about the political, economic and social plate of Black America, and how unhealthfully most folks eat.”

At the time, McQuirter and her classmates didn’t know Gregory had become a vegetarian in 1965, extending the practice of nonviolence during the Civil Rights Movement to include compassion for animals. He then went vegan in 1967 for health reasons. “He had been a vegan for 20 years by the time he came to my campus,” recalls McQuirter. During his talk, he connected food to the many social justice issues facing African Americans in this country.”

She was going through her own paradigm shift, studying and experiencing more racism, classism and sexism at Amherst, which left her open to question the way society dictated she should eat. “[Gregory] also traced the path of a hamburger from a cow on a factory farm, to the slaughterhouse, to a fast-food restaurant, to a clogged artery, to a heart ticket. His talk rocked my world,” McQuirter tells me. “It led me to do my own research and go vegetarian first, then vegan within about a year or two.”

She says the hardest part was giving up cheese: “I had to finally decide that the momentary pleasure of a piece of cheese in my mouth was not worth the health risk — since cheese is the biggest source of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet.”

Her transition to a plant-based diet was made easier as her mother and sister went vegan too. “There was also a large black vegan community in Washington, DC, which had also started the first all-vegan cafes and health food stores in the city — about 14 of them — so we had a lot of community support,” notes McQuirter.

 

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She came up with the idea for the 10,000 Black Vegan Women movement to mark a milestone for her book, which “helped thousands of women go vegan”. “I wanted to do something big and bold and necessary — and that was to help 10,000 Black women go vegan in 2020,” she says. “My ultimate mission is to help change the health paradigm of black women.”

African Americans are the fastest-growing vegan demographic in the US — 8% compared to the overall 3%. “But the vast majority of Black women experience the worst health outcomes from diet-related diseases, including heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and diabetes,” explains McQuirter. “And these pre-existing conditions have resulted in African Americans getting sick and dying in the highest numbers from Covid-19, which only emphasises the need for programs like this.”

So far, the movement has already seen nearly 9,000 Black women sign up to go vegan.

Anay
Anay Mridul
Anay is a journalism graduate from City, University of London. He has been a barista for three years, and never shuts up about coffee. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford Comma. Originally from India, he went vegan this year, after attempting (and failing) Veganuary. He believes being environmentally conscious is a basic responsibility, and veganism is the best thing you can do to battle climate change. He gets lost at Whole Foods sometimes.