Everyone needs a friend who is always willing to try new things. When it comes to food, LA Dunn fits the bill. Years ago, when body inflammation left her in constant pain, she took a chance on plant-based eating and hasn’t looked back since. Today, her blog Black Girls Eat is a one-stop-shop for easy, plant-based recipes, reset food plans, and more.
“I’m your homegirl walking through the supermarket with you. I created Black Girls Eat so that I could be an ambassador for plant-based nutrition for my community.” Keep scrolling to learn more about how BGE got its start, why the BlogHer Food speaker is a fierce advocate for plant-based living in the Black community, and the veggie that “tastes like an apple and a cabbage had a baby.”
How did past health issues inspire Black Girls Eat?
I basically spent all of 2017 in pain. I was taking over-the-counter meds to sleep through the night and drinking lots of coffee to wake up. Everything hurt from the top of my spine to my pinky toes. I found a rheumatologist who ruled out lupus and other auto-immune diseases. She did find that there was a lot of inflammation in my body. Inflammation can cause that kind of pain.
Once I started researching, I discovered that there were certain foods that caused inflammation. Inflammation leads to other horrible diseases so I didn’t want any part of it. I learned that meat, dairy, coffee, and alcohol were at the top of the list. I took those things out of my diet for about two weeks and saw a huge difference. That inspired me to take some plant-based nutrition courses and then I was hooked. I started remixing my plate and influencing family and friends to do the same.
I discovered that food and knowledge were great weapons in the war against diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, and of course, inflammation. I wanted to share what I was learning but not in a high-brow clinical way.
What are your thoughts on plant-based eating in the Black community?
I grew up in a home that had plants on the plate but we weren’t necessarily plant-based. I think that we lacked diversity in what was offered to us in the neighborhood. It’s not that we didn’t want to eat well, but they sold the basics so that’s how we rolled. There are many challenges but access is the first thing that comes to my mind. I talk to women all the time and they are always reaching for the better, the healthy, the organic. We talk about budgets and how to make it work because most of what’s good and better—often cost more.
There are lots of people making moves to ensure that we get better food and food products in the neighborhood. I love what GrowNYC has done here in New York regarding Farmer’s Markets and community engagement. I love what Kimberly Renee is doing with her partnership with Splendid Spoon for Might be Vegan with a focus on getting plant-based meals to the community. I’m also very excited about The Bodega Makeover Project which is a show in development that helps to re-design neighborhood grocery stores so that they offer healthier snacks, sandwiches, and smoothies.
Finally, as a community, we have to remember that we have always been in the food space. From the okra, sweet potatoes, and succotash on our Nana’s table to the mostly plants diet of Rastafarians. We are the food legacy of people like James Hemings, Chef Hercules, Chef Leah Chase, and Edna Lewis.
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How does it feel to be an influencer in an industry (wellness) that is frequently called out for whitewashing?
I’m glad to be going green while being Black. We are out here! But seriously, I think that the brands and corporate America have to get out of their own way and spend more time with Black influencers and get to know our audience. We workout, take vitamins, and practice yoga. The notion that white equals healthy is played out. Black women and families spend millions on products that support health and wellness.
We should see way more commercials, sponsorships, ads on social media, and in print (if anyone is still reading) that show Black women and families nurturing their loved ones, making veggie lasagna, and whipping up smoothies.
What are your go-to resources for learning more about plant-based living?
I took plant-based nutrition classes with the Center for Nutrition Studies so I’m always on their website looking and learning. I recently discovered my other play cousins Coco and Lala and they are doing their thing in the vegan/vegetarian space in Minneapolis. I always visit Vegan Sexy Cool created by my girl Jacque Reid who spotlights all things vegan including shoes. And of course, I’m always watching videos all over YouTube. Best free cooking school ever!
How can we incorporate plant-based eating into our diets this fall and winter?
Here’s the best advice I’ve ever received. I took a cooking class years ago with my friend Chris of @justsimplycuisine and she told me to shop in season and I never forgot it. The fruits and veggies taste better and it’s often less expensive than the ones that are out of season. Why eat something that’s been on a plane for hours or on a truck for days when you can enjoy what the local farmers have to offer in season?
Leaning into a life of mostly plants actually expands your food vocabulary. Fall is all about pumpkins, squash, and of course apples but it’s also an excellent time to try new fruits and veggies. Last fall, I just discovered kohlrabi which tastes like an apple and a cabbage had a baby and now I make my kohlrabi, apple, kale salad for everyone, even if they don’t ask me to!
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