The food-health connection for African American women

Written by admin   // May 12, 2010   // 0 Comments

By Dr. Tina C. Mason

Obstetrician/GynecologistAurora Sinai Medical Center

Many of us are not aware that what we eat impacts our health.  Magazines that target Black and Latina women commonly feature slender models, most of us dismiss those women as ‘unreal’ or we say ‘nobody wants a bone but a dog’, yet there is a world of difference between being a anorexic stick figure and keeping our weight at a healthy level.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist 62% of African-American women are overweight and 49% of us are obese!  Obesity is commonly defined as 20% or more over your ideal body weight.

Studies have shown that obesity related illnesses including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and certain kinds of cancer are killing Black women at much higher rates than White women.

These disproportionate rates also have an impact on the birth outcomes for African American women.  Babies born to African American women die before their first birthday at almost four times the rate of white babies.

It’s time to take control of our health and make better decisions when it comes to food choices.

So, what can we do? Give up eating? No more fried chicken, macaroni and cheese or sweet potato pie?  No, it won’t work.  Maybe we can stay away from these foods for a while, but sooner or later they sneak back onto our plates and in our mouths.

A better approach to improving overall health is moderation and exercise.

The Journey of a Lifetime campaign, launched by ABC’s for Healthy Families, works to reduce infant mortality and prematurity in southeastern Wisconsin by eliminating unhealthy behaviors.

It also introduces tools that help individual’s adopt healthy lifestyles, such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and stress reduction.

ABC’s for Health Families defines moderation as eating a low fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, small servings of lean meats, fish and poultry.  Along with a moderate intake of grains and starches we can enjoy a healthy ‘taste-filled’ diet.

Also, we must begin to change the way we prepare our foods, smoked turkey instead of ham-hocks to our black-eyed peas and collard greens.  Reduce the salt and sugar, substitute with flavorful spices.

Bake, broil or boil foods, don’t fry them in lard.

Save the high fat ‘soul food’ for special occasions and even then reduce the portions (eat one slice of sweet potato pie, not half the pie).

Ladies, its time to get moving!  Walking is one of the healthiest and easiest exercises we can do and it doesn’t need special equipment or membership to a fancy gym.

You can walk during your lunch hour, walk to the store instead of driving, walk all or part of the way to work.

Try to walk a total of 30 minutes a day, you can break it up into three 10 minute sessions, just get moving!  30 minutes of exercise 5 to 6 times per week will produce improved health benefits in as little as 3 weeks.  You’ll feel better, have more energy, sleep better and you’ll look marvelous!

We must take control of our own health and the health of our babies.  Women set the tone for our family and community.

When Mama/Sister/Grandmother/Daughter cares how she lives the rest of the family changes also.  We traditionally have cared for everyone else; it’s time to take care of ourselves.

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