“If your plate could talk, what would it say about your life?” said Tambra Raye Stevenson, a nutritionist and councilmember of the DC Food Policy Council Board.
Stevenson was a guest panelist on a recent Instagram live discussion focused on how eating a plant based diet can affect your mental and physical health and was part of a series hosted by Urban Health Media Project called “Therapy Thursday,” which focuses on youth mental health
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 8%of Americans over the age of 12 experience depression. One thing that can help with improving mood and quality of life is dietary changes.
Kai Sinclair, a vegetarian, teacher and one of the panelists from the Therapy Thursday Instagram live, talked about how her plant based diet makes her feel good.
“I physically feel better, so I mentally feel better,” said Sinclair.
As a coping mechanism, some people would eat “comfort foods” such as chips, cakes, and fried foods to help deal with their mental issues, said Stevenson.
“Eating unhealthy food that is ‘dead food’ actually exacerbates the problem even more,” said Stevenson. Due to eating unhealthy foods, African Americans tend to suffer with issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, she said.
While eating healthy can improve your mental health, the panelists said, access to healthy foods in communities all over the world is limited and the cost of healthy foods is high for the average family. It’s sometimes easier to turn to fast food and delivery or takeout because it's nearby, easier and cheaper.
Over one-third of children and adolescents consumed fast food on a given day, according to the CDC. Most of it is due to lack of resources for healthy food options. In Washington DC, Wards 7 and 8 in the Southeast portion of the District have only three full-service grocery stores, making it hard for families to access healthy foods.
Transportation and long lines in the grocery store can be barriers to access, too, according to the DC Policy Center.
As a council member of the DC Food Policy Council Board and a Ward 8 resident, Raye said she will speak out about her community’s lack of access to healthy foods.
She also helps women of color in DC through her organization called WANDA (Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture) to change their families’ eating habits by teaching about healthy foods and how eating well can transform lives.
Sinclair is an advocate for healthy eating and being vegetarian in the home of black families and wants the youth to start the journey of making the change in their households.
“If it's healthy for you then you should try it, and others should try it” she said. “Stand up for your rights and stand up for what you believe in.”