Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Who’s Bad? Vegans, Fat, Carbs and What May Make Us Worse Off July 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Oshun 2.0 @ 12:19 am

Though many of us resist observing the fourth day of every July as the United States’ Independence Day,  most of us did enjoy an extended weekend and a little extra time to eat well these last few days.

With extra time off and barbecues abounding, many vegans of color also watched loved ones consume insane amounts of fatty food products this weekend.   VoCs may have sat back in pity, made some side-comments about eating to live or had their day explode with an all-out argument over whose food ideology is the correct one after trying their best to resist watching family members put extra pressure on their already stressed frames and cardiovascular systems.  However, in the wake of this anti-arterial holiday, Dr. Andrew Weil wants us all to reconsider where we might be coming from when it comes to our causal claims about poor health, fat, and our (outspoken) thoughts on what’s really bad for us.

In his recent article entitled “Fats or Carbs: Which is Worse?” , Weil gives us something to chew on.  Overall, I found the piece to be interesting, although I was repeatedly challenged to not to look away after Weil evokes an abusive use of the word “civilization” (someone: please explain to me again how the conventions of sedentary, disease-inducing lifestyles represent the pinnacle of human organization and social sophistication; therefore engendering “civilization” and “modernity”, respectively?  Pardon me but I assumed that optimal health across communities and ways of living that maximize human engagement with environments both built and naturally occurring was the ultimate expression of human social organization.)  Though much about who I am  is in opposition to Weil’s  hegemonic opinions on what constitutes human sophistication (and the implication that o/Others do not experience obesity and Alzheimer’s to the same degree as Americans because they/we lack the structural aspects of civilization),  I still think there is some discussion-worthy content in “Fats or Carbs”.

As a two-year vegan who once struggled tremendously with the over-consumption of grains, breads and pastas, I know I am not the only who benefits from this conversation.  Personal reflection and community engagement has shown me that vegans (especially vegans still exploring what fundamentally works for them) often adopt diets that centralize carbohydrates and animal product-free refined foods.  To that end, I would  to speculate on what  Dr. Weil’s most recent piece may mean for vegandom.

Below Weil outlines his conclusions on the source of obesity and life-style related disease in the global n/North:

  1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease or any other chronic disease.
  2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the hormonal regulation of homeostasis — the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body. The more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, the greater the effect on our health, weight and well-being.
  3. Sugars — sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically — are particularly harmful, probably because the combination of fructose and glucose simultaneously elevates insulin levels while overloading the liver with carbohydrates.
  4. Through their direct effects on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, starches and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. They are the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic diseases [of epidemic proportions in the US].

What are your thoughts on this?  Do Weil’s arguments about dietary fat not being the culprit we think it is and carbohydrates being the engine for obesity and disease hold water to you?

I know that we can all clearly conclude that imbalance anywhere is going to do greater harm than good,  but I would like to seriously consider whether the disproportionately high carb intake for many of us may be leading vegans in North America away from optimal fitness and towards refined food-related illness as well.  Would you disagree?

As a conscious  vegan with a demanding life, how do you manage these inclinations towards refined, carb heavy food fixes in order to maximize the tremendous benefits of a plant-based diet?

Looking forward to this brilliant community’s thoughts….