Nutrition and Altering Black Dietary Regimens

Blacks suffer an inordinate amount of hypertension, diabetes, obesity and subsequently heart disease. Much of this can be traced to nutritional habits. Some of these habits stem from the days of the antebellum south, rather than traditional and healthier African dietary practices.

"Soul food" is a staple in may African-american homes. Some of these foods have high nutritional value, particularly greens, beans, squash and other green and yellow vegetables. But many of the aspects of this eating are high in fat content--especially those recipes which call for cooking with bacon, hamhocks, salt pork, etc. Furthermore, constipation and subsequent toxicity can exacerbate matters. Processed sugar and flour also work to the detriment of the digestive system.

How the food is prepared is also important, especially when fried in animal fat. However, nowadays many more soul food cookbooks are recommending baking and using leaner cuts of meat. More fruits, vegetables and fiber should be incorporated into the diet. The latter assists in improving regularity. Reduction or elimination of salt, fat and sugar is also advised.

The transformation from the greasy diets so many are familiar with, to a healthier diet will not happen overnight. So how do we change the eating habits that have developed over generations? One idea is to emphasize these new dietary recommendations in schools, churches and have them reinforced at home by significant others. But this also means that the latter group must lead by example, which is easier said than done. Switching to a low-sodium, more nutritionally balanced diet can be cost prohibitive for many African-american families, especially those on fixed incomes and dependent on food stamps.

To lose weight many blacks resort to using dieting gimmicks like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Dial-A-Meal, and other programs. While these programs may be helpful in some cases, studies show that the weight lost is likely to be regained. This is especially true if modified eating behavior isn't continued and fails to become habitual. Adding fiber to the diet is an effective means of losing wait as it is low in caloric content, but gives one the feeling of being "full."

Roughage helps the digestive system function properly. It makes it so fecal matter can be passed without straining and causing damage to capillaries in the colon and legs. Roughage also eliminates the need for laxatives and other over the counter remedies, which over time can cause dependence. Foods high in fiber include nuts, grains, wheat, cornmeal, vegetables and whole wheat bread as opposed to white bread and may help reduce the risk of colon cancer. This is based on fibers ability to remove waste from the body quickly. This lessens the amount of time toxic substances remain in the body.

The daily recommended intake of fiber is between 19 grams per day and 38 grams per day. On the other hand, too much roughage can result in iron, calcium and magnesium deficiencies. Therefore it is wise to make food your source of fiber rather than ingesting dietary supplements.