No matter how up and down the weather has been lately, summer will inevitably be here soon. And there is really no better time for us to shift how and what we are eating than now. If there is anytime of the year most of us eats less, it is the summer. This can be attributed to the warm weather. The fact that many of us are more active and more conscious of our appearance as we are wearing fewer clothes (some of us too fewer clothes – but that is another commentary). Now is the time NOT for you to diet, but simply shift your eating habits to those that are at least a bit healthier.
To be honest, this is a commentary that we really need to hear every week. Only because as a community we don’t really seem to get it. We, black people, continue to suffer overwhelmingly from every disease known to man. Diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease, and other conditions are all affected by what and how much of it we put into our bodies. And while many of us have drastically shifted what we eat, there are far too many of us, like most of America, who eat portions that are too large, consume too much sugar, salt, and fat and not enough vegetables and healthy proteins.
In February of this year, Oldways, a non-profit nutrition education organization based in Boston, created an African heritage Diet Pyramid. The organization, whose motto is “Health Through Heritage,” believes that we should let the old ways be our guide to good health and well being. It focuses on fruits and vegetables with greens (collards and mustard) and kale being the base and suggests that we consume them every day. Kale specifically has cholesterol-lowering properties and reduces risk for several kinds of cancer. The pyramid also focuses on roots (beets and sweet potatoes), nuts and grains and fruits like bananas, papayas and yes…even watermelon (which an elder told me was the Viagra of the fruit world). Like any tool, this is merely a guide and we make the real difference each and every time we decide to eat.
So here are a few recommendations.
1. Make the healthier selection: Instead of starting out saying, “I am never going to eat this,” or “I am only going to eat that”; every time you decide to consume something, make the healthier, and if you can, the healthiest choice. If you are at a restaurant, choose the lower fat, vegetarian, vegan or fish option. For some of you it will mean DON’T go to that place you normally go to, as there is really very little on the menu that is good for you. If you are out and about, pass up the fast food and grab a salad (with mixed greens as iceberg lettuce is like eating chilled Styrofoam). If not, then grab some low-to-no-salt nuts or trail mix to hold you until you can get something healthy that will do you right.
2. Check the portions: Sometimes it is about how much you eat. You can be eating some of the healthiest food for you, but if you eat too much of it, you defeat the purpose. Eat to be satisfied, not to be stuffed. Gone are the days when you have to eat everything on your plate when you’re out. Why? Because they put too much on your plate. You can look at the meal as today’s dinner and tomorrow’s lunch. Or if you are in an urban area, look at it as half for you and half for a homeless or hungry person not far from where you are. Bag it up and give it to someone in need.
3. Juice: If you can, get a juicer (any one you can afford) and start experimenting. I love kale juice, but it is definitely not for everyone. Find a combination that works for you. But the vitamins and minerals you will get from natural juice will change your energy levels and do great things for your body and mind.
4. Finally, Eat at an apple or piece of fruit everyday with your water: It is the small things that make a big difference.
I want to see you live long and well; and what we put in us (and you know how I mean that) is what will give us an extended and active life. Eat to live, family.
As always, I’m Jeff Johnson and that’s my truth.