Home-cooked holiday feasts aside, our eating patterns are trending in the wrong direction.
Over time, we’ve tended to go from cooking our own food to relying on more processed, packaged and non-perishable fare. Researchers say this slow transition, along with other factors, has resulted in an increasingly obese population, rife with heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.
Oldways, a Cambridge non-profit that promotes healthy eating, wanted to help solve this problem. The group spearheaded a 20-year research project that put together a panel of experts — community health experts, culinary historians, nutrition scientists and even a representative from Whole Foods who has worked with the WIC program for needy women, infants and children — to collectively come up with a healthy eating model.
They came up with more than one. Indeed, the culmination of their work is several diets based on the traditional eating habits and foods of people from the Mediterranean, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa. There’s even a vegetarian food pyramid. The African Heritage Diet pyramid is the newest of them all — you can read more about it on NPR’s Shots Blog, and see the pyramid full size by clicking on the image to the right.
Each food pyramid comes with detailed lists that name specific kinds of foods for each level of the pyramid that are both healthy and traditional to that culture. Also at the base of every food pyramid: physical activity.
Some examples of the cultural-specific foods featured in the pyramids:
- Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: Anise, Fava, Feta cheese, lamb and Guinea Fowl
- Asian Diet Pyramid: Bamboo shoots, ginseng, Dragon Fruit, curry leaves and duck
- Latino Diet Pyramid: Chiles, Acai, Reggianito cheese, arepas and beef
- Vegetarian Diet Pyramid: Artichokes, Seeds, Polenta, cheeses and apples
- African Heritage Diet Pyramid: Callaloo, bananas, butter beans, palm oil and catfish
While anyone can follow any of the pyramids as a guideline for healthy eating, the pyramids were specifically designed to appeal to those ethnic groups. Instead of one standardized graphic with general rules, it’s an attempt to broach the subject of healthy eating with foods familiar to each ethnic group. Continue reading