HEALTHY TWISTS & TIPS FOR PREPARING AFRICAN CARIBBEAN FOODS
Chronic diseases such as heart diseases, stroke, and type 2 diabetes are prevalent, particularly among the African Caribbean population. Even though many factors contribute to the development of these diseases, scientific research shows that diet plays a significant role in the prevention and management of these diseases. Some individuals, having this fact in mind, often think that they need to abandon their favorite cultural foods to lower their risk of getting these diseases. However, that idea is not accurate. Making some small dietary changes, changing food preparation methods, and limiting the consumption of foods rich in sugar, salt, and oil are ways of achieving a healthy traditional diet.
Here are some tips to incorporate in your African/African Caribbean diet for a healthy life:
1. Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other plant chemicals that are good for your health. They are also low in sugar, salt, and oil. As part of a healthy diet, and a regular healthy and active lifestyle, a high intake of fruits helps in maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure and lowering the cholesterol in the body.
African and Caribbean region offers many varieties of fruits and vegetables. If you can maintain taking different varieties of fruits and vegetables (5 different types of fruits and 2 different types of vegetables) a day, you will be a happy person, in terms of health. Go for a variety of colors from foods including papaya, eggplant, mangoes, Loquat, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, callaloo, and okra. These foods are good for your appetite and health. Add vegetables to your rice dishes, stews, and soups. You can have a piece of fruit in the mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and evening. When it comes to vegetables, do not boil them, instead, steam them to retain both their nutrients, flavor, and color.
2. Consider Starchy Carbohydrates
Starchy carbohydrates should form just over a third of the food you eat. Whole grains or high fiber versions of starchy carbohydrates are good for gut health. They can also help stabilize your blood sugar level and lower the cholesterol level in your body. Different varieties of whole-grain rice are readily available in most African and Caribbean markets. Have more of these grains in your diet plan for a well-working digestive system. You can boil or bake your yams instead of boiling them, however, be mindful of the portion sizes you take. You can reduce the portion sizes of ugali, eba, pounded yam, and plakali, and have more stew or soup bulked up with pulses and veggies. You can cook potatoes with the skin and take it to up your fiber intake. Ensure you wash it well!
3. Include some beans, pulses, fish, and other proteins in your meals.
These foods are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Consider having a variety of beans and pulses, especially if you are on a vegan diet. You can use beans and pulses to replace meat either partially or completely. If you are not on a vegan diet, you can aim for 2 portions of fish per week (a portion is about 140g – the size of the palm of your hand). One of these fish should be oily such as salmon. When preparing meat, ensure you cut off visible fat and skin from it before cooking. Instead of frying chicken, you can grill or roast it.
4. Limit the intake of food rich in Oil, Fats, and Sugar
Regular intake of foods that are high in saturated fats, salt, or sugar (HFSS) increases the exposure to chronic diseases such as heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and stroke. Reduce the consumption of foods such as full-sugar punch, malt drinks, and fizzy drinks since they are high in sugar. Additionally, choose unsaturated oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, and rapeseed since they are better for your heart’s health. However, not that all fats are high in energy and should be consumed sparingly. Bottom Line by making small changes to the type of food you take and their preparation, you can enjoy a healthy Caribbean diet and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. However, this calls for consistency.
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