After being diagnosed with gestational Diabetes ( a condition that affects overweight pregnant women), and logging in my dietary behavior and pattern for a week in a food diary, my doctor told me to avoid all my African dishes and gave me a “westernized” diet plan to follow. After trying to follow the “western” diet plan my doctor gave without success, I knew that if I had to stick to this weightloss program, it definitely had to include my favorite African dishes. This got me thinking about our African foods and if I could actually lose weight on an African diet. Read the whole story and what I found out about the health benefits of African nutrition here.
Today, I want to share with you a tool I found which has become my guide to healthy heritage nutrition: The African Heritage Food Pyramide.
The African Heritage Food Pyramid
As the name indicates, the African Heritage pyramid is a pyramid-shaped guide of healthy foods created by Oldways with the help and knowledge of experts in African American and African Diasporan history, cuisine, nutrition, and public health to help people of African descent make healthy food choices. It is divided into sections to show the recommended intake for each food group. The sections show what food we need to enjoy abundantly, moderately and sparingly. Unlike the normal food pyramid created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) based on typical American foods, the African Heritage food pyramid is based on… your guessed right African food. Go with me to the pyramid below:
Notice how colourful the pyramid is? Our Heritage is graced with an abundance of fruits and vegetables of all kinds and colors; from pineapple, pawpaw, watermelon to grapefruit, guava, passion fruit you name it ..we have it all. We’ve got countless types of vegetables especially leafy greens like kale, spinach, waterleaf, bitterleaf, Ewude, Juta leaves etc.; tubers like sweet potatoes; beans of all kinds; nuts and peanuts; rice, maize and other grain foods, especially whole grains; healthy oils; herbs and spices; fish, eggs, poultry and wild game with occasional consumption of sweets, cookies and cakes.
The African food pyramid is divided into sections containing these foods which have been grouped according to their recommended portion, starting from large to small as we climb further upwards to the top of the pyramid. This simply means that the food groups at the bottom section of the pyramid are those which you should enjoy in larger portions and more often. As you go further to the top sections of the food pyramid, the sections get smaller indicating that they should be consumed in smaller portion and less often or occasionally. The health benefits of each food group and the rquired quantity for consumption will be discussed in another post.
Physical and social activities on the African food pyramid
Physical activity has always (unconciously) been part of the African lifestyle. Two hundreds years ago , walking kilometers to farm or fetch water was the norm in most African societies. People worked hard daily under the heat of the blazing sun to pound fufu, weed farms, plant or harvest. Devoting time to family and community gatherings have been long-time traditions throughout the African Heritage cultures while dancing to the tunes of good traditional music around a night fire on for special occasions. The African Heritage Diet pyramid encourages continues physical activity as well as favorite pastimes, and relationships as part of a healthy lifestyle. Oldways recommends that we activate our body, mind, and heart each day to keep our body working at its best.
In a nutshell
- Use the African Heritage diet pyramid to help you make healthier food choices and for portion control.
- Base your African meals mostly on a variety of foods nearest the base of the pyramid.
- Incorporate physical activity in your everyday life and be social.