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This is my second day of my Week of Vegetarianism, and I really enjoyed choosing foods with a higher level of consciousness than before. I thought I had certain things in the pantry and freezer, but turns out the black beans were M.I.A. So instead of a black bean burrito for lunch, I had fab omelet with red and green bell peppers, onions and cheese, and some grapes. Again, the cheese makes me ineligible for the vegan club. (And by the way, thanks to fellow Anne Rice fans who “get” the headline.)

I had a mixture of collards and black-eyed peas for dinner, and a roll with some Smart Balance spread, because the meal otherwise would have no fat.  I did buy some black beans for lunch today, so we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, here’s the second part of my Q & A with Tracye Lynn McQuirter, author of By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat. Her book is filled with disturbing, yet fact-based information on what really happens to animals before they reach the supermarket as food, all that is wrong with meats, chicken and even fish.

Question: How can anyone say anything bad about fish?

Answer: You mean how can anyone say eating a smelly chunk of decomposing flesh from polluted waters is bad?  The nerve!

The fact is that fish is one of the most contaminated foods on the market – from mercury, arsenic, PCBs, dioxin, DDT, lead, aluminum and radioactive waste dumped into our oceans and rivers by the ton every day.  A recent study in the American Journal of Cardiology shows that eating fish does not improve heart health or prevent heart disease. 

Ah, but what about the omega oils?  Well, if you get it from fish, the oils are contaminated with those industrial toxins.  Fish oil has also been shown to inhibit the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin, which spells trouble if you have diabetes – as do one in four black women over 50.  You can take these risks or get your omega-3 oils from plant algae (where the fish get theirs) or your omega-6 oils from walnuts and flax seeds.

Q: Your “Milk is for Heifers” chapter was unsettling. What are the top five reasons we shouldn’t drink cow’s milk?

A:  1. We’re not newborn calves trying to grow from about 60 pounds to 600 pounds in six weeks on nothing but high-fat cow's milk.

2.  Drinking three glasses of whole milk packs enough saturated fat in your bloodstream as eating 12 strips of bacon or a Big Mac and fries.

3. Studies show that women who drank a glass of milk a day increased their risk of ovarian cancer by 75 percent, compared to women who drank less than a glass a day.

4. Studies show that men who drank two or more glasses of milk daily had twice as much risk of developing advanced prostate cancer than men who never drank milk.  The studies noted that “dairy consumption is one of the most consistent predictors for prostate cancer in the published literature.”  Black men have the highest rates of prostate cancer in the world.

5.  The USDA Dietary Guidelines (milk pushers for the dairy industry) recommend that all Americans consume three servings of milk or other dairy products every day.  This completely disregards the fact that majority of people of color in the United States cannot digest milk or milk products.  That includes:

90-95 percent of Asian Americans

95 percent of Native Americans

65-75 percent of African Americans

50-60 percent of Latina/os

10 percent of European Americans

That's a lot of Americans for the government to ignore.  Another very important thing to remember is that we are SUPPOSED to stop digesting human breast milk after weaning because by then we’re developed enough to digest our regular diet.  So our bodies naturally stop producing the enzyme to digest the lactose in milk.  It's abnormal for any species to continue drinking it’s mother milk beyond the infancy stage.  Even cows stop drinking cow’s milk after six months!

Q: Do you ever eat fast food? If so, what and where?

A: At vegan restaurants, I eat pizza or burgers or yam fries every now and then.  And I definitely eat dessert!   My current favorite is chocolate cheesecake (yes, vegan cheesecake!).

Q: Is it more expensive to eat vegan?

A:  In some ways, it can actually be cheaper to eat vegan foods than meat and dairy.  Really!  There are simple ways you can eat green and spend less green at the same time.

One tip is to buy staple whole foods like dried beans and whole grains from bulk bins.  For example, black beans, brown rice and oats typically cost less than a dollar a pound. Compare that to the cheapest fish, chicken and beef, which typically cost up to three dollars a pound or more.  “Mock meats” made from soy and seitan (derived from the protein portion of wheat, used as a meat substitute – Leslie) cost almost twice as much, but these should not be considered staple foods.

The cost of fresh fruits and vegetables depends on the season, where they come from, and whether they're organic or sprayed with pesticides.  During summer months, fresh produce is abundant so prices are usually lower.  Local produce can also be a cheaper option because it has not been transported from across the country or across the world.  In my book, I include a list of produce that has not been sprayed with pesticides, but does not carry the higher organic price tag.  Better still is growing your own. 

Also, consider the big picture.  Eating healthy vegan foods can add years to your life, prevent you from getting chronic diseases, and reverse heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions you may already have.  Organic collards may cost $2.50 a pound now, but angioplasty or bypass surgery can cost $50,000 or more later.  Saving money is good; preserving your health is priceless.

I don't eat any animals or anything that has to do with animals. No fish or egg or dairy because I personally don't feel it's a good practice to eat anything that might run away from you.   ~   Russell Simmons

Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.