Oldways Introduces New African Heritage Diet Pyramid

BOSTON, November 9, 2011—Diabetes, obesity and heart disease are not a true part of African American heritage, and to help reclaim good health, Oldways, along with an advisory team of experts, is unveiling The African Heritage Diet Pyramid, an evidence-based and practical tool for African American communities. This is the fifth in Oldways’ family of healthy eating pyramids using cultural models to inspire 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,” said Sara Baer-Sinnott, president, Oldways. “Scientific studies show that many chronic conditions now prevalent in African American communities, appear in populations as traditional diets are left behind.”

To create the pyramid, Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition organization, gathered a panel of experts, including nutrition scientists, health experts, and culinary historians. Made possible through a grant from the Walmart Foundation, the new pyramid offers a cultural model for healthy eating, connecting African American communities with their early Diasporan roots and sharing these healthy foods with the world.

“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, MSED, RD and author, “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, which at a glance, depicts an overall total diet, encompasses the foods from the four African Diasporan regions (Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the American South). To accompany the pyramid, Oldways is also introducing 12 plates, or dishes, and recipes to be used as expressions of the cuisines of specific cultures in these four regions. Plates show how to combine healthy foods on the pyramid into specific meals. From Savory Pumpkin Soup, Jollof Rice with Black Eyed Peas, and Baked Pecan-Crusted Catfish, these dishes offer healthy and traditional heritage recipes for families to prepare and enjoy together.

To inspire and educate people about this healthy and affordable eating pattern, Oldways has also created a user-friendly African Heritage 101 brochure and an African Heritage & Health Portal on the Oldways website, which 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 & Health Initiative. “Through our work with Oldways’ other healthy eating pyramids, we have seen what a valuable tool this can be. We are grateful to all our advisors and partners who share our passion for this mission and are helping us spread the message far and wide as we embark on this newest Oldways initiative.”

In addition to the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, Oldways has created and introduced four other healthy eating pyramids (Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American and Vegetarian), along with health/education outreach programs. These pyramids have been used by millions of people and are seen in homes, doctors’ offices, supermarkets, RD offices, cookbooks, journal articles, textbooks, and more throughout the world. The organization expects to start working on a Native American Heritage Pyramid in 2012.

For more information or to download a free copy of the African Heritage Diet Pyramid or African Heritage 101 brochure, please visit, http://www.oldwayspt.org/african-heritage-diet.

About Oldways
Oldways (www.oldwayspt.org) is a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization, with a mission to guide people to good health through heritage, using practical and positive programs grounded in science and tradition. Simply, we advocate for the healthful pleasures of real food. It is the parent organization for The Whole Grains Council and The Mediterranean Foods Alliance, and is well-known for creating the Whole Grain Stamp and the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.

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