FOCUS ON HEALTH
By Guildford Joe Thomas
The pre-slavery ancestors of people of the African Canadian community ate food directly harvested from the land. But their enslaved ancestors were forced to eat whatever was provided to them by the slave owners. They often ate the entrails and appendages of farm animals, including pig’s feet, cow’s tongue, liver and oxtail.
This food had little nutritional value but the slaves made these scraps as palatable as possible by adding herbs as well as large amounts of the fat, sugar and salt that were readily available. This diet from the days of slavery was so entrenched in their day-to -day existence that most of them continued to eat the same food years after emancipation.
Family traditions play a significant role in unhealthy eating habits. Much of what is eaten today by Black people in the western hemisphere is a continuation of the food traditions of slavery. Very few of them ever question if what we are eating is healthy.
Black people living in the Western world are facing a super-charged health epidemic. Many get sick and die prematurely because they are unaware of the debilitating, and deadly effects of consuming meat and animal byproducts like their slave ancestors. Some who should know better still stubbornly refuse to make healthier choices of what they eat. They reject the compelling evidence that cultural delicacies like stewed oxtail, fried liver, salted fish, souse, jerk chicken and macaroni pie (aka mac and cheese) are toxic foods.
Many Black Vegans are often rebuffed by family members and friends when they try to make them aware of the high health risks that come with voluntarily eating modern versions of plantation food.
Close examination of the correlation of this diet to health issues exposes substantial evidence that this is the source of many chronic diseases in black families. Diseases that they accept as “genetic.” They should stop eating for taste and tradition and pay more attention to the nutritive value of what they consume daily.
Black people, correctly, readily support the strong protests against the unjust criminal murder of any member of their race by police. But they are slowly and mindlessly killing themselves each day by continuing to eat chemical-laden, highly toxic food.
Research shows that people of African descent in North America have the highest per capita rate of diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Studies also show that black men who contract these diseases are much more likely to die from them than Hispanics and Caucasians.
The same goes for black women and breast cancer in most parts of the western world. They are much more likely to develop this disease and when they do, it is more aggressive, and they are more liable to die from it than white women. Black women are also more prone to suffer from fibroids than women from any other race.
Fibroids is believed to be a hormone-related disease. Foods like red meat are very high in saturated fat which is linked to higher estrogen levels. Consuming these foods can severely impact hormone levels and worsen existing fibroids.
Most of the enslaved ancestors were taken from West Africa. The traditional West African diet was plant-based. It comprised a rich variety of vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, tubers, and nuts. Meat was not regularly consumed as part of a daily diet but mainly for special feasts and rituals. Dairy and eggs were not a part of this diet.
Studies today show that when people of African descent eat a similar plant-based diet, it results in greater health, longevity, and a considerably reduced risk of chronic disease. Many are not aware that plant-based food is much more naturally suited to their West African ancestral DNA than the Western diet.
This has been proven in studies comparing Africans living in West Africa eating their traditional plant-based diet and Africans living in North America eating a Western diet. The diseases that plague Africans in North America are almost non-existent in West Africa. Plantation food is a health-destroying vestige of slavery and is not part of their actual West African cooking history.
Admittedly, there are economic and social factors to be considered in this analysis. But there are many easy options available to African Canadians to make better food choices.
They can now reclaim their heritage by transforming their kitchens to restore their health!
(Trinidad-born Guildford Joe Thomas is former licensed massage therapist. He is a vegan and a lifelong student of nutrition and fitness. living,. His new book, Let Food Be Your Medicine Today –Live Strong and Healthy on Plant-Based Whole Foods, is now available at www.Amazon.com and at A Different Booklist in Toronto. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)