By: Erika Takeda Eastham and Leticia Vaca
February is Black History Month and American Heart Month. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer for all Americans, and stroke is also a leading cause of death. As frightening as those statistics are the risks of getting those diseases are even higher for African-Americans.
Heart Disease and African Americans Facts:
We are taking the opportunity to share the heart healthy benefits of some of African American and Caribbean Soul food favorites with a Nutritional Goodness twist. As I plan on expanding my family, it is important for me to learn more about African American culture to be more informed of the healthy options that are already available. Food has been one of the most salient ways of preserving cultural traditions and fostering strong familial ties.
Oldways oﬀers a wealth of online health information and recipes; and teaches how of the ancestors of African Americans brought many wonderful food traditions to parts of the Caribbean, South America, and the southern states of the U.S. Over the generations, many of these food traditions have been lost with the inﬂuences of modern American eating habits.
Here are their 10 Steps to Getting started with African Heritage Diet:
Visit their site here: https://oldwayspt.org/traditional-diets/african-heritage-diet
Additionally, Tiffany Townsend-Smith, MS, Functional Nutrition, and Brent Steinmetz, RD share how they use culturally focused food for heart health.
Tiffany Townsend-Smith is an AMAZING Functional Nutrition and Wellness Coach, has a Masters in Nutrition, and she is a Pilates Instructor.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans (1). Unfortunately, racial and ethnic minority populations have a higher rate of cardiovascular disease and risk factors for the disease than whites (2). Lifestyle factors play a large role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. These factors include exercise, controlling stress and one of the most important is diet. It can be difficult trying to figure out what to eat while also making sure we still enjoy what we eat. Growing up in a Caribbean household, two of my favorite foods were rice and peas, and fried red snapper. There are certainly ways to improve these without compromising taste or culture.
Rice and peas are a heart healthy dish, but a way to make it even better is by substituting brown rice. Brown rice provides more fiber per serving than white rice which is helpful in reducing cholesterol and inflammation (3). Peas, beans and other legumes have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to decrease blood pressure, inflammation and cholesterol (4). Some great options to try are lentils, pinto beans and chickpeas.
Consuming fish especially a fish like red snapper is a great way to increase omega-3s in your diet which also beneficial to improving heart health. However, the fried snapper I grew up on could actually increase the risk of heart disease if not consumed in moderation. Rather than deep frying, baking or grilling fish is a great alternative and pairing it with a heart healthy fat such as extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil can help to boost the overall nutrient density. Another great way to improve preparation of fish is to use an air fryer. Air fryers can provide that same crispiness as deep frying but without the negative effects.
Enjoying and having fun with what you make to eat is so important. Taking the time to make small tweaks to your favorite dishes can help immensely in reducing your risk of heart related diseases.
To stay up to date with all things nutrition from Tiffany T Smith follow her on Instagram: @tiffsmithnutrition
Brent Steinmetz, MS, RD, CSSD, CPT, PN2 is a Registered Dietician and has over 15 years experience as a fitness professional. He attended the University of Delaware and West Chester University for Undergraduate studies in Nutrition. He is a former football player and has won a Division 1 AA National Championship. He has earned a Dual Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition & Exercise Physiology from Florida State University. Please read his insightful post and enjoy:
Most individuals can appreciate a heart-felt, loving, quality tasting home cooked meal. However, what do some of the typical soul food concoctions do for the body?
Soul food is typically very wholesome, non-processed, made from scratch, as that's how the origins of soul food developed in ancient history (1). Eating whole foods is a positive action for our body's metabolism. Catfish, spare ribs, and any variation of greens combined can create a balanced meal if we consider two common barriers people struggle with in their diet - adequate protein and vegetables. We can assist our overall health with emphasis on vegetables, and balance blood sugars with adequate protein. So, where's the drawback(s)?
One of the biggest obstacles for anyone with pleasant tasting food is the hormone response telling our brain to "Eat More!" Our self-evaluation of fullness becomes masked and overlooked. As a result, caloric intake starts to dominate in comparison to calorie burn. This will cascade into some adverse responses to the body over time, for example the accumulation of body fat. A high body fat composition further interferes with the function of the body, then our health becomes a concern.
Another obstacle surrounding soul food consumption is Carbohydrate content in ratio to Protein and Healthy Fats. How does your plate look? Are we making sure most of our plate is filled with fresh vegetables and a wild caught fish (example) or are we dominating our plate with multiple squares of cornbread and additional quantities of barbecue sauce? It's challenging to highlight awareness around this when again, our hormones will tell our brains "we want carbs, we need carbs!" And it's true, we do need carbs, but can we thoughtfully balance our carbs with planning and action... YES! Then turn it into a good habit.
The final obstacle is our trends for lack of total body movement following a quality meal that has taken us to 100% (+) fullness and/or contains abundant carbohydrates. How many of us can name a family member and "their chair" that they're going to after their meal consumption? Soul food was created purposely to create high calorie meals.
About Urban Health Group LLC:
To Empower Black, Indigenous, People of Color ( B.I.P.O.C.) with tools and support to effectively navigate their health and mental health needs for better wellness.
We are eliminating healthcare disparities and reducing healthcare biases for Black, Indigenous, People of Color.
-We will eliminate healthcare disparities for Black, Indigenous, People of Color.
-We will address healthcare biases head on through strategic partnerships.
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