NFM talks to Alicia Silverstone, actress, devoted vegan, environmentalist, animal-rights activist, author and keynote speaker at Expo East 2010 in Boston. She covers why vegan and green ideas are gaining traction, what products retailers should keep stocked and what role soy plays in a vegan diet.
Q. Why do you think vegan and green ideas are gaining in popularity?
A. The truth reveals itself and eventually people hear it. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth was helpful here and so was Oprah. Grassroots organizations have been working so hard for so long, never giving up, walking and speaking the truth. The more we live in truth, the more others will want to know and understand, and hopefully they will want the knowledge in The Kind Diet and on thekindlife.com.
Q. What age group or generation seems to be more readily embracing this lifestyle?
A. If you go by registered users on my website, the majority are female. A little over 40 percent of members are between the ages of 25 and 34, and 36 percent are between 35 and 49.
Q. What can natural products retailers do to serve this customer base? A. They should ensure their goods and services are being produced locally and organically. Their foods should be free of animal products and contain no sugar and beeswax.
Q. What items should natural products retailers be sure to keep stocked?
A. Umeboshi plums and brown-rice syrup.
Q. Do vegans need supplements like calcium and vitamin B12 for complete nutrition?
A. Vegans only need to supplement with B12. They do not need additional calcium if they follow The Kind Diet. A varied, plant-based diet is packed with calcium-rich foods, including sea vegetables, leafy greens, beans, nuts and seeds. By eating these foods, you will get more than enough calcium.
Q. What role should soy products play in a vegan diet?
A. Soy can be a treat—organic, non-[genetically modified] soy, of course. No need for it to be avoided like the plague. It gets a bad wrap because it contains plant-based estrogens called phytoestrogens. In small quantities, these have a positive effect in woman (lower cholesterol, prevent osteoporosis, helpful for postmenopause) and are fine for men. It's when people eat soy all the time, and use it as a major replacement for whole, unrefined foods, that problems arise, but this is the case with anything in excess in our diets. They key is moderation. It's great to eat tofu and tempeh a couple times a week, and miso and a good-quality soy sauce in small amounts. And keep in mind that Asian cultures have used soybeans or tofu in moderation for millennia without exhibiting problems. In fact, their breast-cancer rates and problems with menopause are so much lower than ours.
–Interview by Kelsey Blackwell