The popularity of plant-based diets may be on the rise, but they are still overwhelmingly taken up by women.
Meet Ronen Seri, co-founder of Blossom (New York favorite vegan hotspot) and author of The Blossom Cookbook. This book will allow vegan foodies and lovers an opportunity to create their own meals using some of Blossoms top recipes. In our exclusive interview with the “blossoming” entrepreneur, you will find all of your answers about veganism including why there’s a lower number of men who are vegan compared to women, why it’s time for men to go vegan, and how they should make the switch.
Tell us a little bit about your business and your core values.
I find my self-attracted to two things; Business in its simplest form, and questioning the nature of the mind which includes art. I feel passionate about how we treat one another and suffering in any form, but especially to that of animals. It pains me to see what they are subjected to.
What inspired you to start your business?
I love food. I am a vegan for animal reasons and I love business. I made the choice to become Vegan in the 90’s when it was not as mainstream as it is today. I saw a need at the time and opened Blossom in 2005 to create a finer dining experience for people to enjoy great flavorful food without harming animals. Marrying my passions for business and opening one that hopefully aid in bringing an awareness to animals has been a great source of joy for me. Hearing how much people enjoy my restaurant gives me a sense of accomplishment.
In your opinion, why do you believe there’s such a lower number of men who are vegan compared to women?
I think the reason is simple. Boys are brought up to be “strong and manly” and woman are to be more maternal and nurturing. Those fundamental expectations imposed from childhood pervades through our society. The male hormone, testosterone, is associated with aggression and strength where the female hormone, estrogen, is associated with sensitivity and empathy. Here, the perception is that men generally associate being Vegan with weakness and might be concerned with the image they portray- like not manly enough if they are vegan.
Why do you feel it’s time for more men to make the switch?
Showing sensitivity to others and caring is actually what will make you a better man! Generosity and kindness is a sign of strength, not weakness. You can also be very strong, healthy, alert and in BETTER shape with a Vegan diet. In fact, most people report feeling more energy and feel stronger and more youthful.
What recommendation could you give to men who are interested in making the switch?
Beyond the animal reasons, the health benefits are tremendous. Ironically, when people become sick or are diagnosed with cancer, most dietitians recommend a vegan diet. Don’t be afraid that you are missing anything in your diet. On the contrary, you can google myth busters as well as substitutions for certain vitamins and proteins that you might be concerned about. If you workout a bunch, you can get protein from many more sources than you might think. In fact, research shows that the American dietary recommendations for daily protein intake are WAY more than the body needs, regardless if you are vegan or not.
What is your recommendation for fitness-conscious people who want to become a vegan, but are afraid of losing muscle mass or stamina?
Don’t worry, you will see that you have a lot more stamina as a Vegan and better health, guaranteed. Also look at some powerful athletes who made the switch. The epitome manly is Brad Pitt – he is vegan! The most powerful animals on earth elephants, hippopotamus, gorillas are plant eaters. I must mention that one of the World’s strongest men, Patrick Baboumian, is a VEGAN.
Do plant-based foods build muscle? If so, how?
I read a fantastic article that I believe simplifies the process of building muscle. It boils down to having all the right amino acids (building blocks of protein) in your diets, and all of the plant proteins have these. As for the exact process itself, “When you understand how muscle is built, you will realize those animal products are not necessary, and they could actually have an adverse effect on your health. Muscle size only increases when two conditions are present:
- First, you stimulate growth by consistently engaging in resistance training that exerts stress on muscle fibers, creating micro-tears in them.
- Second, you need to eat enough calories to support muscle repair and growth, a small but vital proportion of which must consist of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Amino acids help us recover from training, and they help damaged muscle tissues repair and grow.”
What three tips can you offer our readers who are looking to become stronger, or gain mass and muscle on a vegan diet?
- Continue what you are doing in your workout routine. There is no need to change a thing if anything you might see that you have more energy!
- Be sure to eat a complete diet that has sufficient protein, carbohydrates, the proper fats, fruits, and vegetables. This way you can get natural sources of iron, D3, and essential oils from foods. But feel free to buy these if you are unsure or unable to easily get them from foods.
- In order to bulk up and add muscle mass, you will need to do weight training that is aimed at tearing muscle fibers so that they rebuild larger. The best way to accomplish this is two ways; doing explosive powerlifting (low reps, heavy weight with explosive contractions) and being sure that the eccentric part of your reps are done VERY slowly. A little technical here but to explain – the concentric phase of a rep is the flexion of the muscle like the curl up portion a bicep curl, whereas the eccentric phase is the lengthening with tension – the downward motion of a bicep curl. Studies show that the lengthen with tension is what causes a greater muscle micro tear than on the concentric phase of contraction.
I’ve heard rumors that it can be a bit expensive going vegan. Do you think it’s possible to be vegan on a budget?
I actually think it is the other way around. Meats, fish, and dairy are very costly. When I am away, I go to many restaurants that will make something for me and charge me less. Also, most things you will buy to eat are not expensive, such as grains, beans fruits, and vegetable. If you want richer food, you can make vegan creams from nuts and other fresh ingredients that will be better for you and are generally cheaper.
Your book, The Blossom Cookbook will allow foodies and lovers an opportunity to create their own meals using some of Blossoms top recipes. What is your go-to meal that you think even people who aren’t 100% vegan should try if they are looking to go vegan?
Yes, Blossom cookbook can be a great guide for wonderful interesting dishes that you can make at home. You will be surprised how full of flavor they are yet so much healthier than most diets. You can make simple dishes that will satisfy or get creative with some more time. Our fan favorite is our risotto that I have had the pickiest foodies try and would never know that it was vegan. Same goes for many of our dishes, but the risotto is my recommendation to starter!
What do you think the most positive result of veganism is?
The most positive result of veganism is living a life which is more compassionate, and therefore closer to your simpler happier self. The result happens to be healthier and physically energizing so it is a win-win.
What advice would you give to someone else who is thinking about setting up their own vegan business/company?
Mmmm…Good question! Run the company as any other good company; have a vision that is based on something that you are passionate about. From there, create the best products. I strongly advise not to preach your cause but rather focus on setting the example that we can live without the notion that we need to kill others to look better, be healthier etc. This point will be exemplified by the sheer result of your creation. Be proud to offer something that is great for us and therefore the environment which is also us- not separate from us.