In recent years there has been a movement towards healthy living, which includes eating a healthier diet. As more and more Latinos face health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and different forms of cancer, it is extremely important to take care of our bodies. The easiest way to accomplish this is by changing our diet. Food blog Decolonize Your Diet teaches people the importance of eating natural food: “it is time to reclaim our cultural inheritance and wean our bodies from sugary drinks, fast food, and donuts. Cooking a pot of beans from scratch is a micro-revolutionary act that honors our ancestors and the generations to come.” So maybe we ought to think twice before we pass on the beans.
Here are 10 foods you can introduce to your diet that are not only super healthy, but can help you connect back to your ancestral roots:
Quinoa has been all the craze lately, this grain is a popular substitute for rice. It is rich in nutrients and acts as a complete source of protein (something that can’t be said about other grains). Quinoa is rooted in Andes region of South America. It was one of the two significant sources of food for the Incas, the other being maiz.
Bell peppers are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, which provides potential anti-cancer benefits. Bell peppers have also been found to provide 7 percent of total vitamin C intake. Bell peppers have been cultivated for over 9000 years in South and Central America. It was first “discovered” by European colonizers in the 1500-1600’s.
Chia seeds used to be available in certain health stores, the superfood seeds have become so popular that they are now common place in restaurant menus, and grocery store isles. There are about 140 calories per two tablespoons along with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein. These seeds are popular as additives in fruit smoothies and shakes since they contain all nine essential amino acids, which are essential for muscle-building. Other popular ways to eat them include sprinkling into yogurt, oatmeal, or in a salad.
The chayote, native to Mexico, is a member of the squash family. In fact the word chayote derives from the Nahuatl word chayotli. Chayote comes in two forms, prickly and smooth. It can be eaten raw in salads or stuffed and baked. Other preparations include mashing, pickling, frying, or boiling. The chayote contains fiber and is high on potassium and low on sodium which makes it good for supporting healthy blood pressure.
Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and have been consumed since prehistoric times. Sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants and minerals, such as manganese, iron, and vitamins C,E, and D. Their high potassium content is great for lowering blood pressure because it removes excess sodium and regulates fluid balance in the body. They also help in reducing stress since they can help relax muscles and steady nerves. Sweet potatoes should be steamed or boiled when cooked to get the most nutritional benefit.
Sunflower seeds make a great go-to snack and are readily available almost everywhere. These seeds are the actual seeds of the sunflower plant and have been eaten by Native Americans for over 5,000 years. They not only help get you through until your next meal but they contain high amounts vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium which helps in preventing cardiovascular disease, maintaining healthy bone production and reducing cholesterol.
It is no small secret that papayas are native to Latin America. This delicious fruit was once called the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher columbus. It contains high levels of vitamin E as well as the digestive enzyme, papain, which has been shown to help with inflammation and to improve healing from burns.
Blueberries are often included in health lists for their high antioxidant values and associated health value. However, what many don’t know is that this superberry is native to North America and Native Americans used different parts of the plant for medicinal purposes.
Peanuts are not actually nuts, they’re legumes (similar to peas, lentils, and other beans) and are believed to have originated in South America. Peanuts grew as far north as Mexico when the Spanish began their exploration of the “New World.” Peanuts are rich in fat, the kind of fat you want in your body. The monounsaturated fats in peanuts are important for a healthy heart. In fact they have higher levels of antioxidants than apples or carrots, which helps reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.
The cashew nuts, as you know them, are actually the seeds stuck at the bottom of the cashew apple. They belong to the same family as the mango and pistachio and are native to Brazil.The fruit is actually considered a delicacy in Brazil, and the juice of the cashew apple is considered a popular beverage. The nut itself contains many of the same benefits as peanuts, and it contains essential unsaturated fatty acids as well as monounsaturated fats that are good for your heart.