There are many chronic conditions that have a significant impact on the African American community. Diseases such as hypertension, asthma, prostate cancer, and uterine fibroids continue to wreak havoc on our community. Now, we even have COVID-19 to add to the many health conditions that disproportionately affect black people. Here we will delve into each of these disorders and discuss natural approaches to address each of them. We should strive to leave a legacy of health for our children and generations to come.
The History of the African American Diet – Where it All Begins
Many crops were brought over to the Americas during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Foods such as okra, which likely originated in Ethiopia, were brought onboard the ships and the crops wound up being grown on the plantation by the enslaved as food sources. Rice was another food that was transported and became a foundation for many African American dishes. We can still see similarities between one-pot rice recipes like Jollof, a traditional West African dish, and jambalaya. The word ‘gumbo’ is derived from ‘ki ngombo’, meaning okra in the Bantu language.
Slaves were also largely known for salting and smoking meat to preserve it. The least desired cuts of pork, such as the head, ribs, feet and internal organs, were given to the slaves as food rations. Drawing upon traditional African cooking techniques, vinegar and hot red peppers were often used to flavor the poor cuts of meat, a technique still used in southern barbecue sauces today.
Collard greens, another soul food staple, is comparable to Ghana’s kontomire stew, the likely foundation for this southern dish. Enslaved African Americans would boil the greens in pork fat and seasonings. The left-over juices called ‘potlikker’ were soaked up with cornbread to be eaten. Many African cultures have practiced this tradition of dipping a starch into a vegetable and meat-based stew, such as injera of Ethiopia or fufu in Nigeria.