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Try these African heritage foods for Black history month.

The standard American diet includes large quantities of meat, refined sugar, and processed junk food. No matter where your ancestors are from, I’m confident their diets were much healthier.

Our current cooking and eating standards are far from the traditional, multicultural habits of our descendants. Many of our favorite foods lack the nutrients they once had and instead, have been replaced with preservatives, ‘natural flavorings’ and other additives that are harmful to our bodies.

Soul food, or southern cooking, is one example of how American culture has popularized reinterpretations of the Africans traditional way of eating with commercialized dishes that tend to include foods very high in starch, fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calories.

The truth is, soul food is just one small piece of the African heritage diet, which is a mostly plant-based way of eating. The diet, which African American ancestors brought to the southern states in the U.S., the Caribbean and South America, is based on whole, fresh foods naturally low in processed sugar, unhealthy fats and sodium, and includes small amounts of meats and sweets like:

  • Fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens
  • Yams and sweet potatoes
  • Beans, nuts and peanuts
  • Rice, flatbreads and other grain foods, especially whole grains
  • Healthy oils like coconut, peanut, and olive oils
  • Homemade sauces and marinades of herbs and spices
  • Fish, eggs, poultry and yogurt

For years, these food traditions protected Africans from obesity and chronic diseases that many people suffer from today. Let’s be more conscious about the foods we put into our body by shifting away from modern American eating habits and instead, adding more of the traditional African heritage diet back into the dishes we serve at our dinner tables.

This Black History Month, try swapping out some of your regular food staples with these food options:

  • Collards
  • Mustard greens
  • Passion fruit
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Okra
  • Yuca
  • Groundnuts
  • Millet
  • Red snapper
  • Harissa
  • Ginger

Want to take things a step further? Try one of our recipes below. You won’t be disappointed!