African Americans are at higher risk for many chronic diseases compared to other Americans. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans are 29% more likely to die of all causes than Americans as a whole, and they make 4.5 times as many emergency-room visits for asthma attacks. Various studies have also shown that African Americans are 1.4 to 2.2 times more likely to have diabetes than whites, and have higher rates of obesity.

Diet is in many cases a prominent factor in chronic diseases like these. The “Southern Diet” – characterized by researchers at the University of Alabama – Birmingham as heavy in fried foods, processed meats and heavily-sweetened beverages – is often seen as the “traditional” diet for many African Americans. But in fact, a healthier, more solidly traditional model can be found by looking to the foods brought to the New World by Africans, along with those they adopted here. In truth, African Americans on average eat more leafy green vegetables than other Americans, and more legumes like black-eyed peas. By starting with these healthy habits and looking to Oldways’ African Heritage & Health Pyramid for additional inspiration, African Americans can take pride in a way of eating that uniquely reflects the wisdom of their ancestors.

Check out our Health Studies page to learn more about how traditional African heritage diets and foods support better health.