Latin & African Heritage Diets

Traditional diets based on whole and minimally-processed foods are healthier than the typical American diet—and research shows this, over and over. In this kit, we explore the culinary traditions of both Latin-American and African heritage diets with resources that provide an overview of both cultures, showing their unique, and in some cases similar, use of ingredients including fruits and vegetables, tubers, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans along with herbs and spices. Four recipes illustrate how easy it is for everyone to enjoy the flavorful and nutritious dishes of vibrant traditional cultures like these, to achieve “health through heritage.”

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Backgrounder: The Role of Traditional Diets in a Healthy Lifestyle

We gathered studies that show how eating a traditional diet can be healthier than the standard Western diet of highly-processed foods. Although a traditional way of eating and its health benefits can be lost within the span of a generation, the good news is that getting back on track can happen quickly with a healthier lifestyle.


Overview: Latin America Cuisines by Region

Latin American cuisine isn’t all the same! This resource takes a tour of Latin America from Mexico to the tip of South America and illustrates how migration, politics and geography influenced the ingredients and dishes distinctive to each region.

Visit Latin American Diet and Pyramid.


Overview: African Heritage: Foods of the African Diaspora

As people from Africa ended up in areas as diverse as Brazil, the Caribbean and the American South, their traditional tastes shaped the unique cooking styles of different regions throughout North and South America and nearby islands. This resource describes the uniqueness of each region while celebrating cross-cultural influences.

Visit African Heritage Diet and Pyramid.


Tips: Sodium and High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure affects 1 in 3 adults in America, with African Americans and some Latin-American populations at the most risk. This resource explains which foods generally contain the highest levels of sodium and tips on how to reduce it.


Tips: Buying and Storing Herbs, Spices and Oils

Latin American and African cuisines burst with flavor from the addition of herbs, spices and oils. This resource shares tips on how and where to buy these flavor enhancers, along with a list of herbs and spices particular to these cuisines.


Blog: Grains of African and Latin American Heritage

Millet, quinoa and maize are just a few of the whole grains used in Latin American and African cuisines. We provide background on how they and others are used in both cultures, along with their health benefits.


Recipe: Amaranth with Peppers and Cabbage

The sweetness of gently fried peppers and cabbage meld with the slightly nutty taste of amaranth in this easy to prepare dish.


Web: Tubers and Other Healthy Starches

Baked, boiled or mashed, tubers are part of many traditional diets. These root vegetables provide healthy carbs, fiber and nutrients. We feature five popular tubers used in Latin-American and African heritage cuisine, describe how they’re used and their health benefits. We include information on several other healthy starches, too.


Recipe: Mangu (Mashed Plaintains)

With only four ingredients, Mangu is fairly quick to cook up and makes a delicious and fun alternative to mashed potatoes.


Article: Nuts and Seeds – Nature’s Little Nutritional Powerhouses

Nuts and seeds are enjoyed around the world and featured in Latin American and African heritage cuisines. We share the health benefits of these little gems along with suggestions for storing them for longer shelf life.


Recipe: African Peanut Soup

Quick and easy to make, this traditional soup from western Africa is nourishing and oh so creamy. Great as a starter course or as a light meal.


Handout: What Color Are Your Fruits and Vegetables?

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables ensures that we get our daily dose of vitamins, minerals and fiber. This resource organizes produce by color and describes the health benefits of each group. Did you know that red and purple produce may help with your memory?


Guide: Beans and Rice – A Staple of Traditional Diets

The marriage of beans and rice has been a staple of most traditional cultures for centuries. African and Latin-American regional cuisines each have a favorite way of playing up the flavors. This resource describes some delicious pairings and includes a chart that describes how to prepare dried beans, their cooking times, and traditional spice combinations for both Latino and African Heritage dishes.


Recipe: Jollof Rice and Black-Eyed Peas

Enjoy the marriage of rice and beans with Jollof Rice and Black-Eyed Peas. Layers of warm spices and seasonings mingle to create a versatile dish that can be the star of your meal or play a supporting role as a side.


Blog: Cheese in Latin America

From Patagonia to the Rio Grande, cheese is an ingredient used in many Latin American dishes. Despite the European roots of many Latin American cheeses, today these cheeses have branched into their own regional traditions. Learn what to look for when buying traditional cheese—and why cheese belongs in a healthy diet.


Tweets: Latino & African Heritage Diets

These tweet ideas have been written to coordinate with resources we’ve featured in this ONE Toolkit.


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