Over the weekend, I had dinner with a long-time friend who was visiting from his adopted home in Korea.
The friend, who is African-American, born and raised in Philadelphia and had only been in the States for a month, said one thing he didn’t enjoy about returning home was the weight gain. So far, he had gained 15 pounds.
“I think part of the reason for my weight gain is because the food over there is horrible,” he said as he took a bite into his second helping of tacos.
But according to new research, it might be environmental.
“A new study from the city’s Health Department examining health discrepancies among black New Yorkers found that Caribbean and African immigrants tend to have fewer health problems like asthma and obesity than American-born blacks.
American-born blacks are also more apt to smoke and drink than blacks who are originally from other countries, the study says.
Some 53% of American blacks labeled themselves as drinkers, compared with 44% of Caribbeans and 34% of Africans.
No black group drinks as much as white New Yorkers, 70% of whom reported being drinkers, the study found.”
The health distinction between Diaspora and native Africans does not stop there. As the article notes, African-Americans have a greater percentages of obesity, asthma and high-blood pressure than our West Indian and African counterparts.
In fact, the only illness category in which all Blacks rated the same was diabetes (between 13 and 14 percent).
Although this particular health department study doesn’t spell out other factors that might contribute to the health gap (outside of smoking and drinking), its findings underscores previous research, which contrasts the health benefits between African-Americans and traditional South African diets.
In that study, which was published in April of 2015, colon cancer researchers at the University of Pittsburgh switched the diets of 20 African-Americans and 20 South Africans in a two week period span.
“In this time, the Africans consumed traditional American food — meat and cheese high in fat content — while African Americans took on a traditional African diet — high in fiber and low in fat, with plenty of vegetables, beans, and cornmeal, with little meat.
After the exchange, researchers performed colonoscopies on both groups and found that those in the African diet group increased the production of butyrate, a fatty acid proven to protect against colon cancer. Members of the American diet group, on the other hand, developed changes in their gut that scientists say precede the development of cancerous cells.”
And of course, none of this is conclusive. Like I said, my friend has been living in Korea. And when not in the States, he tends to only eat fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats anyway.
But if you find yourself ailing from a disease or obesity, and you’re not getting anywhere with modern medicine and other dietary suggestions, perhaps the answer might involve eating like our ancestors, pre-slavery, did?
Image via Shutterstock
Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic, free-thinker, slick-mouth feminist and the reigning queen of unpopular opinions. She is also from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit NineteenSeventy-Seven.com.
On February 14th Live Your Life Inspired will launch two new projects:
Health & Wellness Coaching:
For a limited time, threeFreehealth and wellness coaching sessions with a Mayo Clinic trained Wellness Coach. The three sessions include one consultation and two follow up sessions. The coach can assist you in clarifying your Health & Wellness Goals, Establishing Priorities, and Identifying Strategies for Success. For more information or to participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will not be a traditional food blog: 1) It won’t be filled with pretty, well orchestrated pictures, to be honest I don’t have the time to create “food porn.” The pictures will be simple, honest, and if I have a minute I may throw a filter on it. 2) I’m going to be honest, always, even when whatever I just cooked tastes disgusting (that will happen) and when I miss my goals (which will also happen). 3) This will be a journey of self-love. If I, an omnivore who uses overeating as an ineffective method of coping with overwhelming stress and pain, can transition to herbivore…so can you. There is nothing that I will do that can’t be done be someone else. There is no magic nor manipulation. This is just my honest attempt to live a healthier, fuller vegan life.
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1. How adored she is. No matter what you disagree on and even though sometimes you may yell, she should know she is the center of your universe — always.
2. How to cook. She should be able to prepare small snacks such as eggs, pasta, toast, sandwiches etc. My daughter loves to cook and letting them experiment enforces this life skill.
3. Body changes are coming and what to expect. She needs to know that along with these hormonal changes will come some emotional changes as well. I have bought my daughter a great book by American Girl called The Care and Keeping of You that breaks down the physical and emotional changes in a very easy to understand way. I highly recommend it or a book like it to assist in explaining all that is going to happen to their bodies in the next few years.
4. The harm of drugs. Unfortunately, no matter where you live, drugs are a threat to your child and it starts as early as 10 in some cases. Explain to them in no uncertain terms that no drugs are safe to try even once. Make them understand the tragedy that results in the use of drugs and how dangerous and illegal they are. I have made it clear to my daughter that friends will try to convince you to experiment and that she has to be strong enough to walk away, even if it makes her “uncool” to them. I have also let her know that when she gets older and is out and ever feels a situation is becoming unsafe or making her uncomfortable to call a parent to come get her no matter what.
5. At this age, it’s important for them to know something about the facts of life. I know it’s a tough convo to have, but you surely don’t want them getting their info on the playground at school. I don’t think they need every detail, but a small chat will help them feel more mature about body functions and will prevent crude talk about the subject that they may hear from other kids.
6. They should be aware how there are people all over the world and even in their own community who may not be as fortunate as they are. They should know that helping someone in need is a gratifying feeling and that the help they give may be the boost that person needs to turn their day around. Take them to a local animal shelter or a senior center and let them spend some time volunteering They will feel so good when they are done and it’s a life long habit of helping everyone should practice.
7. Money doesn’t grow on trees. I admit I’m definitely a shopaholic, but I try hard to make it clear to my daughter that nothing comes for free. I worked since I was 15 years old and that gave me the opportunity to shop and travel. She is aware that no work equals no money equals no fun. When she gets money for birthdays and holidays, her father has taught her to split it up into three funds: one to spend, one for emergencies and one for long-term goals such as college. She keeps three separate banks so as not to confuse her funds. It’s a good habit for them to get into and will keep them on track later in life.
8. Appearance is important. She should know that personal grooming and appropriate clothing for different events are something that will be necessary throughout her life.
9. Everyone won’t always be nice. My daughter is going into fifth grade and it’s the time that all the nasty girl drama starts. It was already peeking its head a little in fourth grade, but I anticipate the next two years is when they really get catty. I have talked to her about what girls get snippy about and how to stay out of the drama. You have to stay true to your close friends no matter what, and don’t be involved in groups that talk about other girls because eventually, they will talk about you, too. I’ve tried to teach her to be confident enough to hold her own, but aware of trouble makers and not afraid to report issues that seem dangerous, like extreme bullying or threats.
10. Life is not easy. There will be challenges she will face that will seem cruel and impossible. It will take her faith, her family and her perseverance to get through some of the things that life throws at her. It’s important to know life is going to be a series of ups and down and be prepared to deal with both.
Learning these 10 things is a good base with which to begin the tough preteen and teen years. Helping our children maneuver life is our jobs as parents, even if we haven’t quite figured it all out ourselves yet.
What does it take to become the number one tennis player in the world?
A lot of practice. Nerves of steel. And, if you’re Novak Djokovic, a strict gluten-free diet that he says has played a major role in helping him attain the number one ranking. The newly-crowned U.S. Open men’s singles winner and reigning Wimbledon champion reveals what he eats during a tournament, in an exclusive Eat This, Not That! adaptation from his book Serve to Win. Here’s the food that fuels his quest to win his 10th Grand Slam title.
Grand Slam Secret #1
Start Drinking in the Morning
Most of us have morning rituals, but mine is probably stricter than most.
The first thing I do out of bed is to drink a tall glass of room-temperature water. I’ve just gone eight hours without drinking anything, and my body needs hydration to start functioning at its peak. Water is a critical part of the body’s repair process. But I avoid ice water, for a reason. When you drink ice water, the body needs to send additional blood to the digestive system in order to heat the water to 98.6 degrees. There’s some benefit to this process—heating the cold water burns a few additional calories. But it also slows digestion and diverts blood away from where I want it—in my muscles.
Eat This, Not That! tip: Also drink a cup of tea. Barberry, rooibos, pu-erh and white tea are proven fat-blasters, and we’ve included them in our best-selling diet plan (on which test panelists lost an amazing 10 pounds in one week): The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse!
Grand Slam Secret #2
Eat Some Honey
The second thing I do might really surprise you: I eat two spoonfuls of honey. Every day. I try to get manuka honey, which comes from New Zealand. It is a dark honey made by bees that feed on the manuka tree (or tea tree), and has been shown to have even greater antibacterial properties than regular honey.
I know what you’re thinking: Honey is sugar. Well, yes, it is. But your body needs sugar. In particular, it needs fructose, the sugar found in fruits, some vegetables, and especially honey. What it doesn’t need is processed sucrose, the stuff in chocolate, soda, or most energy drinks that gives you an instant sugar shot in the body, where you feel like “Wow!”
I don’t like “wow.” “Wow” is no good. If you have “wow” now, that means in thirty minutes you’re going to have “woe.”
Grand Slam Secret #3
Eat a “Power Bowl” for Breakfast
After a little stretching or some light calisthenics, I’m ready for breakfast. Most days I have what I call the Power Bowl, a normal-sized bowl I fill with a mixture of:
Gluten-free muesli or oatmeal
A handful of mixed nuts—almonds, walnuts, peanuts
Some sunflower or pumpkin seeds
Fruits on the side, or sliced up in the bowl, like banana and all kinds of berries
A small scoop of coconut oil (I like it for the electrolytes and minerals)
One bowl of these ingredients is generally enough for me. If I think that I will need something more—I rarely do—then I wait about twenty minutes and have a little gluten-free toasted bread, tuna fish, and some avocado. I love avocado; it’s one of my favorites.
Grand Slam Secret #5
Pack Your Lunch with Carbs
For me, a typical lunch is gluten-free pasta with vegetables. The pasta is made from quinoa or buckwheat. As for the vegetables, the selection is vast. Arugula, roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes, sometimes cucumber, a lot of broccoli, a lot of cauliflower, green beans, carrots. I combine the vegetables with the pasta and some olive oil and a bit of salt. (I should say that on match days when I know I’ll have to practice around noon and play a match around three, I have a heavy protein with my lunch, as a foundation for the match. But in general, pasta is all I need.)
During practice, I go through two bottles of an energy drink containing fructose extract. It’s not too heavy in the stomach, but allows me to replenish. The ingredients I look for in a drink are electrolytes, magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium, and vitamin C. The magnesium and calcium help with heart and muscle function and prevent cramps. If it’s a humid day, I also have a hydration drink with electrolytes because I lose a lot of liquids.
After practice, I have an organic protein shake made from water mixed with rice or pea protein concentrate and some evaporated cane juice. I don’t drink whey or soy shakes. I find that, for me, this is the fastest way to replenish.
Before a match, when I really want to fire up, I usually eat a power gel with twenty-five milligrams of caffeine. During the match, I eat dried fruits like dates. I have one or two teaspoons of honey. I always stick with sugars derived from fructose. Besides these examples, the vast majority of the sugar I consume comes from the training drinks I mentioned.
Grand Slam Secret #8
Have a Meaty Dinner
Later, when it’s time for dinner, I eat protein in the form of meat or fish. That usually means steak, chicken, or salmon, as long as it’s organic, grass-fed, free-range, wild, etc. I order meats roasted or grilled, and fish steamed or poached if possible. The closer a food is to nature, the more nutritious it is. I pair it with a steamed vegetable like zucchini or carrots. I may also have some chickpeas or lentils, or occasionally soup.
Before you grab a bag of potato chips to snack on – and then probably end up eating the entire bag – consider these healthier (and tasty!) alternatives that won’t pack on the pounds.
Rose Petal Chips
They’re made from beets, a veggie rich in essential vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, iron and vitamins A, B and C. And, they are particularly beneficial for pregnant women. Additionally, this recipe spices things up with a sprinkle of rosemary, which has been shown to reduce inflammation, increase blood flow and stimulate the immune system.
A relative of carrots, celery and parsley, parsnips are indeed a power veggie. It’s a naturally sweet root vegetable that can boost the immune system and help to promote nerve function, red blood cell growth and dental health. Plus, parsnips are rich in dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin C, and may help prevent heart disease.
The alkaline diet has been earning raves from celebrities such as Kelly Ripa, Kate Hudson, and Elle MacPherson. Ripa actually went so far as to say the diet “changed her life,” helping her heal physical pain. The idea is that by replacing foods that cause excess acidity like meat, dairy, alcohol, sugar, and flour — with more alkaline foods like vegetables, legumes, and nuts — your body will be less susceptible to disease and inflammation. “To achieve health, radiance, energy, and permanent weight loss, it is helpful to understand the underlying causes of diseases and obesity which are acids and inflammation,” explains Ripa’s nutritionist and chiropractor Dr. Daryl Gioffre.
If anyone is an ad for an alkaline diet it’s Gioffre. The high-energy, fit, 40-year-old (who looks about a decade younger) credits the lifestyle with helping him shed 42 pounds and a sugar addiction. He tried the eating plan 10 years ago, when despite trying dozens of diets he couldn’t break the cycle of weight gain and sugar cravings. An alkaline diet finally brought change (and a 12-pound weight loss within one week). He now eats alkaline 80% of the time and says it’s transformed his life. “I have more energy than I did in my 20s, I’m running triathlons and ultra-marathons, and I can’t remember the last time I was sick,” he tells Yahoo Beauty.
To provide a whole body approach to healing for his chiropractic clients, Gioffre made nutrition a major focus of his work. “I really started diving into nutrition, cleansing, and alkalinity as I realized that toxicity and nutritional deficiencies were at the core of everyone’s health and skin issues,” he says. The nutritionist believes that allergies, stress, fatigue, headaches, hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, weak immune systems, poor sleep, and skin problems are all problems that can be healed with lifestyle changes. “These are your body’s cries for help!” he says. “Whenever I see someone with a skin condition, it is a sign that there is a lot of acidity in their body.”
To find out if going alkaline was indeed as transformative as promised, I decided to try Gioffre’s Get Off Your Acid 7-Day Cleanse. Note, that I am typically against fad diets. I don’t even bother trying any because the discipline required to cut out entire food groups seems like way too much work. I truly believe things like cheese and pie are some of the great joys of life. Plus, I have a major sweet tooth. I’ve tried juice cleanses which left me cranky, starving, and the same exact weight when I started. I was skeptical that an alkaline cleanse wouldn’t do anything more than give me major food cravings for a week, but I couldn’t report on it without experiencing it for myself.
While a visit with Gioffre is just under $300, his cleanse can be done online for a cost of $97. To begin, he preps his cleanse patients with pages and pages of information, but the gist is this: You have to cut out all dairy, alcohol, meat, coffee, sugar, and gluten. Unfortunately for me peanut butter, one of the staples of my diet, is apparently wildly acidic and inflammatory, so that was out, too. However, Gioffre doesn’t frame the cleanse in terms of what you are cutting out. Instead, he provides an entire meal plan with tons of recipes to choose from that he promises are delicious. He changes his recipes according to the seasons and recommends that clients do a cleanse four times a year.
Each morning starts with a smoothie. The first day, I blended coconut water, baby spinach, berries, bananas, and chia seeds. I’ve never put veggies in my morning smoothies before. Ditto on Omega 3 rich chia seeds. To be honest, I usually mix smoothies with orange juice or yogurt (both alkaline no no’s). However, I found that you really don’t notice the vegetables or the chia seeds at all. As the week progressed, I began to look forward to trying out a new smoothie each morning — the recipes were that good.
If you follow the plan to the letter and do all the recipes, it requires a lot of shopping, cooking, and prep time. None of the recipes really take longer than 20 minutes to make, but for those who exist on takeout, it will be way more work than you are used to. However, the plan suggests taking the leftovers from dinner dishes like zucchini pasta with spinach lemon pesto or chilled avocado and cucumber soup, for lunch the next day. When I couldn’t cook or cart food to work, I just ordered make-your-own salads including as many of the most alkaline foods as I could (watercress, spinach, kale, cucumber, broccoli, avocado, celery, red bell pepper, and swiss chard).
One of the things that you’ll notice is that there aren’t a lot of fruits on the cleanse — it’s mainly vegetables. “To your body sugar is sugar,” explains Gioffre. “Sugar ferments when it goes into the body and that fermentation process is what makes it acidic.”
The most surprising thing about the experience, however, is that I wasn’t ever hungry. Normally, I would grab several snacks in an afternoon–a sweetened yogurt here, a few M & M’s there. But I lost my cravings for snacks, and my biggest weakness of all — sugar. Apparently this is a common result of eating more alkaline foods. “Your body is working more efficiently and does not require as much energy to neutralize the acid because you are less acidic. So your body won’t need to ravish for food,” explains Gioffre.
The recipes really are appealing, although I definitely preferred some over others. However, part of the reason the cleanse wasn’t that difficult I am already pretty healthy. I have always loved vegetarian dishes. I think it would be more of a shock for someone who eats a lot of meat and drinks coffee and cocktails everyday. I tried to cheat one day and have a glass of wine, and I felt completely nauseous. For me the big downside was that I woke up most mornings with major headaches. Drinking a ton of water (you’re supposed to drink about half your body weight in water on the cleanse) would help ease the pain, but they were frequent and apparently a symptom of detoxing.
The cleanse isn’t all about food. To help encourage detoxing, you are also supposed to dry brush your skin in the morning, take hot baths in Epsom salts and baking soda at night, and do breath work. You also need to take Gioffre’s Alkamind Daily Greens with and Alkamind Daily Minerals powders. The green powder mixed with water takes a little getting used to (it’s pretty unappealing tastewise).
Despite going in skeptical, the experience was surprisingly transformative. For starters, my skin —which I always cover up with foundation because of rosacea — looked more even than it has in years with the redness visibly diminished. The other day, I skipped the foundation altogether, something that hasn’t happened maybe ever. I did lose a little bit of weight — just two pounds, although Gioffre promises it will stay off. He says the difference with this and a juice cleanse where you lose water weight is you are losing actual fat. “The best part is that you can continue to lose that weight as long as you keep your diet 80% alkaline.” Unlike a juice cleanse, where I couldn’t wait to get back to real foods, I want to keep eating this way. Since the diet ended four days ago, I’ve added a little protein, but kept up the primarily vegan meals and morning smoothies.
A common misconception about the diet is that it will change your blood’s pH levels. However, that’s not possible as your body tightly regulates your pH and your diet isn’t going to affect your blood’s pH. It’s an argument critics of the diet use, but Gioffre says that they aren’t understanding the point. “The purpose of eating alkaline isn’t to try and raise your pH. Your body is going to maintain that on its own,” explains Gioffre. “The problem is, if there a lot of acidity, your body will sacrifice other things including bone and cardiovascular health. To meet these acidic demands, the body starts to drain alkaline minerals from its own resources like magnesium from your muscles causing muscle cramps and fatigue, and calcium from your bones and cartilage leading to osteoporosis, joint pain and bad posture. Even sodium bicarbonate from you mouth causing tooth decay. The loss of these essential minerals accelerates the aging process.”
To maintain weight loss, glowing skin, increased energy, and healthy food cravings, Gioffre says that I have to follow a rule of eating alkaline at least 70% of the time, ideally 80%. To me, 70% sounds doable leaving room for the occasional slice of pie. “When your body is in that alkaline state, your body is armed to process those acidic things out when you want to indulge,” Gioffre promises. “People think that to live healthy you have to take away all the foods that you love and it’s not true. You have to enjoy the process to sustain health.”
The world’s oldest person, 116-year old Susannah Mushatt Jones, enjoys a hearty meal of bacon, eggs and grits most mornings. The breakfast sounds delicious, but unless Jones has upended decades of nutritional science, it is unlikely the secret to her long and healthy life.
Eggs and grits aside, there are foods that, if eaten routinely enough, may help extend a person’s life. Science has found that antioxidants, for one, can combat age-related illnesses like heart disease and some cancers. Nature has supplied us with a galaxy’s worth of these molecules in the form of delicious, whole foods foods like berries, garlic and many others. Check out the list below to discover what foods researchers have associated with living long and prospering. Then get a huge bowl, whip up a few, dig in and #LiveYourBestLife.
While you may only eat cranberries around Thanksgiving, you should consider giving the tart bulbs attention all year round. The berries contain antioxidants known to support a healthy long life, but even more, in one study, an oregano-cranberry mixture was found to extend the lives of fruit flies. Researchers said they were confident that the botanical mix would have similar effects on humans, helping ward off age-related diseases.
You don’t have to swap your coffee for tea, but do consider adding a cup of the green stuff into your daily beverage rotation. Both green and black teas contain catechins, which can help protect your heart.
Garlic makes just about any savory meal taste better, and you might as well add it in: eating it has life-extending potential. Garlic is packed with antioxidants and is thought to help regulate blood pressure.
A recent study found that the probiotics in fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt may possibly decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Better yet, most kimchi contains garlic, so eaters get the benefits of its powerful antioxidants, too. One study found the probiotic lactic acid bacteria in kimchi to be helpful in preventing colon cancer.
Every now and again, I come across a vegetable dish that makes me think I could be a very happy vegetarian. From a hearty summer white bean ragout to balsamic-glazed roasted beets, here are a few of my favorites.
This quick ragout of white beans and sweet summer tomatoes might just be my favorite recipe of the summer. The tomatoes — just barely cooked — burst in your mouth when you bite into them, while fresh herbs and a splash of balsamic vinegar liven the dish up. Serve with toasted garlic bread for sopping up the broth. GET THE RECIPE
Next time you’re asked to bring a veggie or salad to a get-together, try these sweet and smoky bell peppers topped with feta, toasted pine nuts, basil and olives. The salad looks gorgeous on a platter and is delicious with toasted pita bread. GET THE RECIPE
In this recipe, broccoli florets are tossed in a sweet, spicy and smoky chipotle-honey butter before roasting. It’s as delicious as it sounds, and the broccoli has enough flavor to carry an entire meal. GET THE RECIPE
This summery dish of sautéed zucchini, burst cherry tomatoes and meltingly sweet red onions is one of those dishes where the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Make it now before the season ends! GET THE RECIPE
Combining veggies in a side dish makes them so much more interesting. In this simple and elegant dish, sweet green peas and asparagus are quickly sautéed with butter, shallots, and a touch of honey. GET THE RECIPE
If you’re a beet lover like I am, you are going to love (and maybe even obsess over) these simply prepared beets. They’re oven-roasted, which intensifies their natural sweetness, and then tossed in a tart and syrupy balsamic reduction. GET THE RECIPE
Ohhhh Sweets!!! Mmmmm… I could go for a cheesecake. You know one that’s really fresh, made from scratch, and just waiting to be eaten. Until someone can create a vegetable that tastes like that, I’m not giving up cheesecake. But I digress. Let’s get to the point of this week’s health video, “How Sugar Affects The Brain.” Well, it’s no surprise that sugar acts like an addictive substance, just see me on Valentine’s day. But how bad is it? According to the brains at TED-Ed, it’s not good at all. But what’s a person supposed to do. Enjoy!