(BlackDoctor.org) — To help African Americans improve their health and eating habits, Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization along with an advisory team of experts, recently unveiled The African Heritage Diet Pyramid.
The pyramid draws from the culinary traditions of the American South, the Caribbean, South America and Africa, and shows familiar vegetables like okra and eggplant and fruits like papaya, as well as beans and meats. And unlike other food pyramids, it has a prominent layer devoted entirely to greens: collards, chard, kale and spinach — all foods of Africa and the diaspora regions of the Americas.
As high fat and sugar-loaded foods have come to dominate the modern diet, health and nutrition have deteriorated in communities around the world. But “African-Americans are disproportionately affected by several major chronic diseases, like hypertension, diabetes and obesity,” Oldways President Sara Baer-Sinnott tells The Salt.
The new African heritage food pyramid is one of several diet pyramids that Oldways has designed to target specific cultural groups. The idea is that generally, people are more likely to adopt recommendations if they are put into the context of foods they actually eat. The heritage angle is also a way to encourage people to try new things their ancestors might have eaten, and avoid diseases their ancestors never had.
“Eating a traditional African Heritage Diet (or other traditional plant-based diet) and staying physically active will reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the risk of these chronic diseases,” says Baer-Sinnott.
There are, of course, a lot of reasons why it can be hard to switch to a more healthful diet, but Baer-Sinnott says it’s mainly just a matter of educating people about their food heritage. And so the group has plans to get the word out by talking to dieticians and doctors. Oldways is also working with the United Negro College Fund to jump-start African heritage cooking clubs and with faith-based groups to organize potluck suppers.
The U.S. government has its own set of guidelines for how Americans should eat. Back in June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled MyPlate, an overhaul of the often criticized MyPyramid. The colorful plate icon has been lauded as a simpler, clearer way of communicating how to balance the five food groups.
For more on easy ways to incorporate the foods you love into the healthy lifestyle you NEED, please visit the African Heritage Diet Pyramid here.