If you’ve never tried African Heritage cuisine now is the perfect time. Coinciding with Black History Month and American Heart Month, February 1st through 7th is African Heritage & Health Week – a great time to discover why the savory flavors and naturally healthy features of African Heritage cuisine are the next big food trend.

The foods, robust flavors and healthy cooking techniques that were core to the wellbeing of our ancestors from Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and the American South may actually be the path to optimal health. Their plant-based diets were naturally heart-healthy – low in unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium, and high in nutrient-dense whole foods.

In fact, scientific studies show that many chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, now prevalent in African-American communities, appear at higher rates as traditional diets are left behind.

For example, research published in the Journal o­f Biomedical Science found that the prevalence of metabolic syndrome — the risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes — in young Tanzanian men increased as they ate less traditional food and more nontraditional foods such as donuts and ice cream. The same trend was found in Botswana.

As the younger population shifts from traditional to a nontraditional lifestyle, weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels rise. The elderly in Botswana who are less inclined to change their eating habits are actually healthier.

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