Photo: E:Thos Photography by Rudo Nyangulu (2011)
Interview by Eden Fadzo Chiuslekuda (an ECCT Natural Health Contributor. For more of her natural health & beauty tips, follow her page, ‘A Corner of Eden’ ).
Vegetarians in Africa?
It is generally shown that there is a low number of vegetarians in countries all over the world, and most countries have been stated to have no more than 5% of the population who are vegetarian. When one asks of vegetarianism in Africa, it is harder to get accurate statistics. Culturally, many Africans have built a stigma towards vegetarians, often deciding that “there is something wrong with him/her, (s)he is too Westernised” etc.
One of the objectives of the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust is to raise awareness of how Natural Health can help reduce the risk of cancer, with an emphasis on promoting locally-produced and accessible Zimbabwean products for the population. Although vegetarianism is not claimed as the definite way of preventing and/or healing cancer, respected health bodies from around the world, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Study (PCRM) have concluded that having a vegetarian diet is healthier than a meat-rich diet and have stated that more than half of cancers can be prevented by adopting a healthier lifestyle. A vegetable and fruit rich diet is also advised for those living with cancer/cancer survivors.
Why is a vegetarian diet healthier?
Vegetables, for example, dark leafy greens are high in nutrients, such as chlorophyll; Vitamins A,C, E, K; many of the B vitamins; iron; calcium and magnesium, all of which aid in helping the body detoxify; promote heart health and remove cancer causing agents, amongst other things. None of the natural substances found in vegetables which are cancer preventing: Vitamin C, B-17, hydroquionenes, beta carotene, NDGA, are found in animals. Most meats, when cooked, produce a host of benzenes and other carcinogenic compounds.
Yes, there are Zimbabwean vegetarians, living in the country and abroad! We decided to interview someone who has adopted a vegetarian lifestyle in Zimbabwe and get his perspective. Outspoken is a Spoken Word Artist; Hip Hop Emcee and front runner to his band, Outspoken & the Essence. He is also the Co-Founder and Projects Facilitator for Magamba Cultural Activist Network and the Marketing & Production Manager for Shoko! International Spoken Word & Hip Hop Festival.
Please describe what kind of vegetarian you are, i.e. lacto-ovo, vegan etc.
I am a borderline vegan (a vegan does not consume any animal products). I say borderline because when I bake I use eggs here and there, but never consuming them for a core meal.
How long have you been eating this way?
I was a pescatarian (not eating animal/flesh products except for fish) for a few years and recently decided to look at other non-healthy food substances that I was consuming (junk and processed foods) and found it difficult to get off dairy products while skipping fish.
What motivated you to become vegetarian initially and who or what was your introduction to vegetarianism?
My dietary choice was/is my way of self-affirmation, that I am in control of my body and not my body’s cravings controlling me. It started off triggering a mental state of health and getting me better in tune with my spirituality, which lead me to my physical state of health ( which I was not consciously taking care off).
Are you ever tempted to eat meat or fish?
It’s funny because one of my passions is cooking and my best dishes were meat dishes! I don’t have cravings, but still appreciate the aromas of meat dishes.
How do you stay inspired or motivated to persist on this path?
It is a self-dedication and one cannot cheat oneself of one’s own goals. My passion for cooking helps to keep me interested and looking at most people’s daily food consumption, you find that it is the same regimented intake that really offers your body very little in terms of nutrition. That being said, I have gone past the point of no return where I feel my body has adjusted to my psych, making the process that much smoother.
What are the benefits for you personally of this diet and what do you think it could do for others?
My diet was/is another outlet of self-realisation. I use it as a reminder of my own self definition, how I am an individual that need not be subjected to societal status quos. It is a paradigm shift for me and it can be more than just leaving meat and animal by-products out of my diet. It is more a rediscovery of food beyond flesh, and where one fits in the order of things (pertaining to self standards!)
Why is it, do you think, that most Zimbabweans are averse to the idea of an entirely or predominantly plant-based diet?
I think being vegetarian comes with too many misconceptions from people that there has to be “something wrong with you to choose that as a diet”, “are you sick?”, “are you rastafarian?”; “are you not earning enough to buy meat and such?” These are some of the questions that get thrown around when the topic arises and part of the blame is our upbringing, where those with the most livestock to butcher were held in high regard and having that as a standard to meet. Who can tell the average Zimbabwean to have a chicken-less Christmas or wedding? Or go a week without having Mom’s “ghetto special” (the name we used for a brisket stew in greens).
What are your favorite foods and what does your diet typically look like both when you are at home and travelling?
I’m not big on pasta dishes. I either make veggie pies and dishes which include pumpkins and mushroom. Spinach and broccoli have come back in my life after having haunted my childhood for years! I am an experimentalist in the kitchen so I really like to keep it as interesting and engaging as possible and try as much to keep it the same when travelling – from pre-ordering flight meals to telling people at my destinations of my dietary choice.
What are your top foods that you purposefully include and exclude from your diet and why these foods or substances?
I have no target foods really, but substances I exclude include alcohol (except for that occasional red wine for my kidney bean stew!) and smoke in my lungs.
How friendly is Zimbabwean cuisine in general, and eateries and hospitality outlets to vegetarians, nowadays, in your experience?
I hardly was/am prone to eating out, but generally I would say the Veggie section normally constitutes around a fifth of your average menu choice and it gets lower for vegans.
How many other Zimbabwean vegetarians do you know personally living both at home or abroad?
To date I have not consciously ever observed my peers eating habits and personally know none of my friends to be vegetarian.
What would you most like the readers to know about your lifestyle choice?
That there is life beyond flesh and animal products, and I am not saying it is easy, but then again would it be worth it if it was?
How has this choice affected your relationships, health and art?
It keeps me in better focus and helps me to gravitate towards the more positive elements that life has to offer, and that was really where my focus was headed in this journey, to the point that I feel that I cannot have one without the other.
Thank you Outspoken for taking the time to share so openly about this topic. Thank you for your thought- provoking questions!
*Website: Outspoken HumbleNeophyte