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Mediterranean Diet Issues We Need to Discuss

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No matter who you are or where you come from, nutrition advice can be helpful. Eating well means different things to different people, and the food you grew up with plays a big part in deciding what you want to eat. When nutrition advice makes your favorite foods seem like enemies, or leaves your heritage outright, you might think: you problem. But that’s not the case: Experts say biases are built into general nutrition advice.

put diversity on the table

Consult a professional for nutritional advice, as it has to come from somewhere else. However, according to the Board of Registered Dietitians, 80% of registered dietitians in the United States are white, and only 3% are black. This can affect your perspective and your message. “Top-down effects contribute to a very narrow definition of what ‘healthy’ means. It looks like this and sends the message that you need to eat.
Nutrition in New York City.

Dr. Kera Nyemb-Diop, a food scientist and nutrition expert, was one of two black students who attended a human nutrition course in which the professor described African foods as “gross.” I remember In addition to the inappropriate comments, she says she felt it was uninformed.There is great diversity in food from the African continent. It can have a big impact on how people perceive food, she says.

Allison B. Johnson, R.D., Black Dietitian, Manager of Nutritional Services at Loma Linda University Medical Center, explains: If the person giving the advice lacks exposure or understanding of other cultures, they often rely on stereotypes to make suggestions. “In the United States, society stereotypes foods such as Chinese, Indian, and soul food as too oily or too salty. It is a gross misconception that it is rich in vitamins and nutrients and contains whole grains, protein and vegetables.

recognition problem

Many foods in black and brown cultures have not been comprehensively studied. “Nutrition scientists will tell you that the research is backed by evidence-based practices, but the research is done on Western foods by white people,” says Nyemb, a man of both African and Caribbean descent. Diop says.

for example, American Heart Association Journal Nyemb-Diop found that those who adhered to the Mediterranean diet had a reduced risk of cardiac arrest compared to those who did not, and researchers classified different cultural foods into categories and called them the Mediterranean diet. The southern diet, which is often associated with black dietary cultures, is characterized by “added fats, fried foods, eggs and egg dishes, offal meats, processed meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages.” It was explained that it is a diet that depends heavily on Nyemb-Diop said the study has led many publications to print headlines like “Too much Southern food can cause sudden heart attack.” She claims researchers “mischaracterized Southern food.”

Furthermore, Nyemb-Diop points out that historical foods from communities of color are often not considered acceptable until they have been “gentrified” and absorbed into mainstream culture. increase. “Cultural foods are always considered unhealthy until they are promoted by white influencers,” agrees Iu. For example, quinoa, a staple in Central America for thousands of years, became a popular grain alternative elsewhere after being embraced by white health and wellness professionals. Milk is part of Indian food culture and is now sold at select Starbucks,” Nyemb-Diop adds.

Changes do happen, but for the most part this happens without acknowledging the indigenous cultures from which newly popular foods originated, generally after white health and wellness professionals embraced them. When an influencer doesn’t acknowledge a food’s cultural roots, it’s considered cultural appropriation, Iu said. The reality is that these traditional foods cannot be tokenized and appropriated by white influencers. ”

nutritional diversity

Ben Goldstein

There are multiple ways to eat healthy

Health food trends come and go, but this year the Mediterranean diet was voted the best diet. US News & World Report 5 years in a row. These days, it’s hard to avoid the realization that this is the only good way to eat.

surely teeth Health: The Mediterranean diet consists primarily of plant foods such as legumes, nuts and grains, with moderate amounts of dairy, lean proteins such as seafood and poultry. It contains very little red meat and sweets, and the main fat comes from olive oil. This diet was developed from the work of researcher Anselkies, who conducted a study in his seven countries in 1958, and found that people who adhered to this dietary style had a lower incidence of heart disease and an overall It turned out to be in good health.

But critics say that despite the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, centering it as the best diet is largely putting white countries on a pedestal and looking down on the food of other nations. It is claimed that the Journal of Critical Dietetics He points out that most of the participants in Keyes’ study were white. Some countries, such as Egypt, Libya, and Turkey, which are mostly made up of communities of color, are technically Mediterranean countries, but foods such as rice, kebabs, and pita bread do not conform to this idealized Meals are not included.

In fact, most of the 21 countries bordering the Mediterranean (many of them in Africa or the Middle East) are not represented by a Mediterranean diet. The diet excludes some areas, including the Blue Zones, the five longest-lived communities in the world.

Not many experts dispute the benefits of a plant-based diet
Minimize meat and sugar. It works for Johnson himself. “I have an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus, and for people like me, I highly recommend a Mediterranean diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods,” she says.

The problem is that the Mediterranean diet is at the heart of our collective Western culture. Many Asian and African diets also have plant-based traditions, and many cultural foods offer nutritional benefits. For example, foods from Ethiopia, Morocco, Pakistan, China, and India include many vegetarian dishes that are rich in fiber and vegetable protein.

where to go from here

When people are told they need to give up cultural foods to improve their health, Johnson says they often don’t stick to prescribed eating plans at all. Regenerating these foods in a cost-effective way.

First, Iu recommends making some changes to your current diet so as not to spoil your cultural enjoyment of food. For example, you can change the cooking method by replacing fried foods with those cooked in an air fryer. “We recommend that you focus on adding fruits and vegetables where it makes sense and respects your culture and taste,” says Iu. You don’t have to use cauliflower rice, just use white rice and add other veggies of your choice.”

Jocelyn Ramirez, chef and founder of Todo Verde, food access advocate and cookbook author La Vida Verde, says she did this when she created plant-based versions of the foods she grew up with.For example, she has a vegan version of Pippian Rojo and mole. “In the Latinx community, which I’m sure is true in many communities of color, food is central to how we live together,” she says.

Individuals can start moving beyond the Mediterranean diet through books and blogs that delve into how to embrace their culture with health in mind. decolonize your diet With Luz Calvo and Catrióna Rueda Esquibel Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook By Maya Feller and blogs such as plant-based RD When Your Latina Nutritionist Helps you connect with cultural foods in a health conscious way.

Moreover, the food science, health, and nutrition industries need to be more committed to inclusivity to turn the tide toward more culturally positive advice. Johnson points out that this is not a black and white issue. She says both white nutritionists working with Mexican patients who eat chilaquiles and black nutritionists working with Vietnamese patients who often eat pho can struggle to provide recommendations. Improving the advice given needs to consider the experiences, food cultures, and social determinants of health that affect Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, says Iu.

Adding cultural foods to future research, nutrition recommendations, and classroom discussions will also create a more holistic approach at a larger level. , you can see better outcomes for your patients with positive knock-on effects in their families and communities.

Ultimately, Johnson believes change is possible, especially with more nutritionists.
Enter the field of color. “Knowledge is out there,” she says.

how isccS?

The difficulty people have in obtaining healthy foods can be another barrier to following general nutrition advice. Likely insecure, low-income communities face geographic and economic barriers to healthy choices. These families often live in food bogs (where processed and packaged foods are more widely available than healthier options) or food deserts (where grocery stores and fresh produce are scarce). increase.

The general advice to eat whole foods over processed foods is problematic if everyone can only eat processed foods, says Nyemb-Diop.

Moreover, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, poverty is directly correlated with obesity rates, higher rates of heart disease and diabetes in low-income communities, and lack of education, access and funding for proper nutrition. I often do.

Ramirez says people in her community are surrounded by fast food restaurants and convenience stores. Companies that use quality ingredients and pay their employees fairly often have higher operating costs and charge higher prices. To combat this, Ramirez plans to create a community her bowl of sliding her scales and offer discounts at the following restaurants.

Organizations such as Just Roots provide resources for those seeking solutions to food justice issues. And by supporting organizations like the Food Empowerment Project and the Partnership for a Healthier America, we can connect families and communities with healthier eating options.