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    Eating the Old Way

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | February 3rd, 2019

    Eating the Old Way

    A few years ago, I went to Nigeria for a cousin’s wedding. A friend of mine wanted to take me out and suggested that we go to Kentucky Fried Chicken. The franchise was in Nigeria and he thought it would impress me. I told him that I did not go to Kentucky Fried Chicken in the United States and I would not start in Nigeria. I told him that while I was in Nigeria, I wanted to go to restaurants that had traditional Nigerian food and I was just as happy eating in the house. My fondest memory of going to Nigeria as a child was having greens and fish with yam porridge.

    February 1st to February 7th is African Heritage and Health Week. It was started by Oldways, a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire good health through cultural food traditions.  The first African Heritage and Health Week was celebrated in 2013. This week is used to educate people about the flavors and nutrition of traditional African heritage foods and eating patterns. Many of today’s healthiest foods have their roots in African heritage like leafy greens, millet, watermelon, flaxseeds, to name a few. Although Oldways celebrates African heritage all year round, they pay special homage every year in February in honor of Black History Month.

    I have to admit, I had never heard of Oldways until this year and did not know about African Heritage and Health Week, but I have truly enjoyed looking at their website and seeing all that they offer. All the scientific research in all the conference I have been to have only cited the Mediterranean Diet as the diet to combat chronic disease and I wondered what about the rest of the diets around the world. My grandmother lived until 95 years old, did her diet count? What about the people living in China? When you explore Oldways  website, they actually have the Latin American Diet, the Asian Diet, the Vegetarian/Vegan Diet along with the Mediterranean and African Heritage Diet.

    One thing that we do know, the Western diet, filled with pizza, french fries, hot dogs, processed food devoid of vegetables and fruits is not sustainable for healthy living. If we go back to how our ancestors ate we will be better off. We would be able to:

    • Lower our risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke
      • Avoid or help treat diabetes
      • Fight certain cancers and many chronic disease
      • Reduce asthma, glaucoma, and kidney disease
      • Nurture healthy babies
      • Achieve a healthy weight and avoid obesity
      • Reduce depression

     To get started with the African Heritage Diet, Oldways suggest the following

    1. Boost flavor with spice – by using fresh herbs, curry, onions, garlic, fresh lemon, you can reduce the amount of salt.
    2. Make vegetables the star of your plate – you can steam, sauté, roast, grill or eat the vegetables raw. When getting seconds, choose vegetables.
    3. Change the way you think about meat – stick with lean meat. If looking for flavors consider smoked turkey or fish instead of ham-hocks.
    4. Make rice & beans your new staple
    5. Find real food everywhere – look for food in their natural state to crowd our processed and packaged “convenience foods”.

    For more details, please check out Oldways website. Try one of the recipes and share your experience.

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