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To help improve health among African-Americans, Oldways, in collaboration with an advisory team of experts, has created The African Heritage Diet Pyramid, an evidence-based, practical tool. This is the fifth in the nonprofit food and nutrition education organization’s family of healthy-eating pyramids employing cultural models to encourage healthy eating.
“We are introducing The African Heritage Diet Pyramid because the traditional diets of the African Diaspora -- Africa, the Caribbean, South America and the American South -- offer a powerful, affordable, healthy eating model and meet the guidelines promoted today by health professionals everywhere,” noted Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Boston-based Oldways. “Scientific studies show that many chronic conditions now prevalent in African-American communities appear in populations as traditional diets are left behind.”
To develop the pyramid, Oldways gathered a panel of experts consisting of nutrition scientists, health experts and culinary historians. Made possible through a grant from the Walmart Foundation, the pyramid provides a cultural model for healthy eating, connecting African-American communities with their early Diasporan roots.
“In my work with the African-American community, I see a general lack of education in terms of the foods their ancestors prepared and enjoyed; today these food connections are all but lost,” said Constance Brown-Riggs, a registered dietitian and author of “The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes.” “This pyramid is an important new educational tool; it is an innovative way that we, as health professionals, can communicate with, connect to and educate African-Americans.”
The African Heritage Diet Pyramid encompasses the foods from the four African Diasporan regions: Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the American South). Along with the pyramid, Oldways is introducing 12 “plates,” as well as recipes that are expressions of the cuisines of specific cultures in these four regions. The plates show how to combine healthy foods on the pyramid into specific healthy meals.
To inspire and educate people, Oldways has additionally created a user-friendly “African Heritage 101” brochure and an African Heritage & Health Portal on its website, which also includes resources, grocery lists, recipes and other heritage information.
“The creation of the African Heritage Diet Pyramid is just the beginning of an initiative to build health through heritage in the African-American community,” said Sarah Dwyer, Oldways program manager and the team leader for the “African Heritage and Health” initiative. “Through our work with Oldways’ other healthy eating pyramids, we have seen what a valuable tool this can be.”
As well as the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, Oldways has created and introduced the Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American and Vegetarian healthy-eating pyramids, along with health/education outreach programs and the Whole Grain Stamp. The organization expects to start working on a Native American Heritage Pyramid in 2012.
For more information visit www.oldwayspt.org/african-heritage-diet.