Oldways, along with an advisory team of experts, launched last week the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, a healthy-eating tool designed for African Americans.

This is the fifth pyramid Oldways has created using cultural models to inspire healthy eating.

The African Heritage Diet Pyramid is based on healthy activity, leafy greens, and varied amounts of vegetables grains and starches.

“We are introducing the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, because the traditional diets of the African Diaspora (Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the American South) offer a powerful, affordable, healthy eating model and meet the guidelines promoted today by health professionals everywhere,” says Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Oldways.

“Scientific studies show that many chronic conditions now prevalent in African American communities, appear in populations as traditional diets are left behind.”

To create the pyramid, Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition organization, gathered a panel of experts, including nutrition scientists, health experts, and culinary historians. Made possible through a grant from the Walmart Foundation, the new pyramid offers a cultural model for healthy eating, connecting African American communities with their early Diasporan roots and sharing these healthy foods with the world.

“In my work with the African American community, I see a general lack of education in terms of the foods their ancestors prepared and enjoyed; today these food connections are all but lost,” says Constance Brown-Riggs, MSED, RD and author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes.

“This pyramid is an important new educational tool; it is an innovative way that we, as health professionals, can communicate with, connect to and educate African Americans.”

The African Heritage Diet Pyramid, which at a glance, depicts an overall total diet, encompasses the foods from the four African Diasporan regions (Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the American South).

To accompany the pyramid, Oldways is also introducing 12 dishes and recipes to be used as expressions of the cuisines of specific cultures in these four regions. Plates show how to combine healthy foods on the pyramid into specific meals. 

To inspire and educate people about this healthy and affordable eating pattern, Oldways has also created a user-friendly African Heritage 101 brochure and an African Heritage & Health Portal on the Oldways website, which includes resources, grocery lists, recipes and other heritage information.

“The creation of the African Heritage Diet Pyramid is just the beginning of an initiative to build health through heritage in the African American community,” says Sarah Dwyer, Oldways Program Manager and the team leader for the African Heritage & Health Initiative. “Through our work with Oldways’ other healthy eating pyramids, we have seen what a valuable tool this can be. We are grateful to all our advisors and partners who share our passion for this mission and are helping us spread the message far and wide as we embark on this newest Oldways initiative.”

In addition to the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, Oldways has also created Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American and Vegetarian pyramids.