While we’re probably all familiar with the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (they scored #1 and #2 respectively in US News’ Best Diets Overall ranking for 2022), it’s important to point out that these are not not the only healthy eating habits in town.
The African Heritage Food Pyramid developed by Oldways – the same people who introduced us to the Mediterranean diet – is yet another science-based healthy eating option. And it’s time we started embracing other cultures and their health benefits.
Why traditional diets are so important
According to Kelly LeBlanc, Director of Nutrition at Oldways, “Health disparities across the country underscore the need for more inclusive dietary messages. Too often African Americans are told that the foods they grew up eating are unhealthy and that poor health is part of their heritage. The Oldways African Heritage Food Pyramid, which was developed with guidance from leading African American nutritional scientists and food historians, turns the script on its head by celebrating culinary heritage and often overlooked cultural ownership. healthy eating for people of African descent.
So agrees Tambra Raye Stevenson, founder and CEO of Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture, a nonprofit whose mission is to reach, teach and advocate for women and girls of African descent in the fields nutrition, dietetics and agriculture. “The science-based African Heritage Food Pyramid is about connecting with your heritage based on scientific research that shows eating like your ancestors can help reduce your risk of chronic disease, achieve a healthy weight, and promote general well-being.”
I can relate so much to this heritage angle. As I am 110% Italian, I am as proud as a peacock that the foods of the Mediterranean diet, which have been eaten and loved by my paesani (it’s an Italian word for people who share the same heritage), turned out to be healthy. But in reality, all of the heritage food cultures, combined with a healthy lifestyle, can serve as a nutritionally sound foundation for a healthy diet. So, we should all fan our heirloom peacock feathers.
That’s why I commend Oldways for creating this inclusive diet model and other traditional diets, including traditional Latin American and Asian diets. According to its website, “Our ancestors have a lot to teach us about not letting fresh food go to waste and eating seasonally. After all, they had no choice. »
The African heritage diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet, as it is based on a variety of nutrient- and fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts, as well as oils and seafood. healthy plants found locally in West and Central Africa in the southern United States. , the Caribbean and South America.
I experienced firsthand a delicious dinner inspired by African heritage cuisine at a recent conference in Washington DC on Martin Luther King’s birthday. Dishes served included oyster and ham broth with Swiss chard, sweet onion and poultry in a spicy ‘yassa’ sauce made with black mustard seeds, cloves, cardamom , black pepper, poppy and fennel. I had seconds on everything.
Easy food swaps
For culinary inspiration, Oldways offers a long list of delicious recipe options to plan a meal around African heritage cuisine. If you would like to familiarize yourself with some of the foods found in this region of the world, here is a list of exchanges:
I step out of my Italian culinary comfort zone and expand my palate to include healthy foods from other countries. Once I have mastered African heritage cuisine, I move on to Latin America.