Being healthy and staying healthy is important to everyone regardless of race gender or ethnic background. A balanced diet, exercising, eating healthy and making simple life style changes can contribute a great deal to maintaining good health and can increase life expectancy (WebMD. 2005-2017).
Many people from ethnic groups enjoy traditional foods due to its aromas and flavours. Foods such as Jollof rice, okro stew/soup, Dhal and ghee, passanda are eaten on a daily basis with no consideration to the high levels of fats and sugars they contain. Traditional foods high in sugar and fat alongside western “fast foods” is a contributing factor to why many people from ethnic groups are more likely than other communities in the UK to have type 2 diabetes, heart/ kidney conditions, high cholesterol or cancer.
According to NHS choices, individuals from South Asian communities are twice as likely to develop diabetes and other health conditions such as heart disease and kidney disease in comparison to other groups.
South Asian adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 27.5 are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. BMI of 23 or more also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Rates of smoking within the Bangladeshi and Pakistani men are higher than in the general population. Smoking bidi or shisha, and chewing paan or gutkha – both of which are forms of “smokeless tobacco” – can be very harmful as it can cause cancer. Research has reported that using smokeless tobacco such as paan or gutkha increases risk of mouth cancer and oesopheheal cancer.
Individuals from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups are more likely to need blood/ organ transplant as a result of illnesses caused by traditional foods.
Despite this, “organ and blood donation among South Asian, African and Afro-Caribbean communities is relatively low”. Many result to religious teaching as a response and state that their religion does not condone such practices.
In fact, a lot of major religions practiced by BAME groups support the idea of transplantation and organ donations. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, Hinduism and Buddhism all support such treatments as it is viewed as an “act of charity or make it clear that it is a decision to be left up to the individual or family” (Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network).
Subsequently, the lack of knowledge about the above means that, there is a shortage of donor organs and blood matching the blood type and tissues of patients of ethnic groups. NHS (Organ Donation) reported that on average, patients from the BAME communities will “wait a year longer for a kidney transplant than a white patient”, due to the lack of suitable organs.
The consumption of foods high in sugar and fat increases the risk of ill health. This ill health can be life threating due to this lack and need for sustainable organs donated by persons from BAME groups.
There are many things that can be done to promote a healthy lifestyle and to reduce the risk of developing the listed health conditions
- Diabetes checks with the GP to assess risk of diabetes
- Exercising regularly
- Engaging with a healthy diet plan
- Swapping traditional ingredients for healthier alternatives
|Things to limit||Swap for|
|Tinned Mango Pulp||Fresh Mango slices or fruit salad|
|Sauced or fried rice dishes or matar pulao (rice pilaf with peas)||Steamed Fragrant rice|
|Spring rolls, prawn toasts||Grilled chicken, steamed dumplings or light soups
|Fried Noodles||Boiled noodles in soups or with stir-fries|
|Fried Chilli Chicken||Boiled noodles in soups or with stir-fries|
|Dhal with ghee||Dhal without ghee|
|Fatty protein sources such as red meat/pork belly||Low fat alternatives such as Quorn, soy or tofu|
|Meat with high fat content such as chicken with skin on, chicken/cow/pig feet, cow tongue, pig/ox tail, spare ribs||Use the leanest cuts of meat possible and trim any visible fat/skin before cooking. For example if cooking goat meat, remove any visible fat and cut into bite sized chunks|
|Fried snack foods such as plantain chips, madazi, and dumplings.||Use grilled plantains, baked mandazi, make fresh fruit salads. Sprinkle with spices to make more interesting|
|Salt fish||Use fresh and preferably oily fish|
|Fried foods such as fried chicken, fried beef or offal, beef jerky, pineapple fritters etc.||Grill, bake or barbeque the same food using low calorie oil sprays if necessary|
|Full cream milk, condensed or evaporated milk||Choose lower fat dairy products such as skimmed, 1% or semi-skimmed milk|
All adults aged 40-74 should be offered an NHS health check every five years, which includes a diabetes risk assessment.
Although traditional foods are rich in flavour and are often nourishing, consideration should be given to the fact that, its content and minerals can increase the risk of ill health.
References and Further Reading