African food groups
A bespoke version of the Eatwell Guide has been created for the African and Caribbean communities. The Eatwell Guide was designed to give a visual representation of our plate and the balance we should aim for of each food group.
We’ve included further information about each food group below:
Fruit and vegetables
It’s recommended that we eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day which most of us are still not achieving.
These include foods such as papaya, coconut, pineapple, jackfruit, ackee, cho cho, okra, eggplant, spinach and pumpkin.
Fruit and vegetables should make up at least a third to a half of what we eat every day and you can choose from fresh, frozen, tinned and dried.
Try to limit your intake of punch drinks and fruit juices to 150 ml per day as they are usually high in sugar and don’t contain as much fibre.
Fruit and vegetables are a great source of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre which are all needed to keep our bodies healthy.
Carbohydrates are foods that break down to sugar in the body. These may be sweet foods like mandazi cakes, puff puff, chin chin, condensed milk, plantain chips, sugared breakfast cereals, honey, fruit and concentrated fruit juices, or starchy foods like sweet potatoes, garri, cassava, plantain and fufu.
Sweet (refined) carbohydrate foods should be limited as they can cause blood glucose levels to rise quickly. These types of carbohydrates are classified as having a high glycaemic index.
Starchy carbohydrates (like fried dumplings, yam, fufu, ogi/pap, agege bread) may be taken in moderation and can make up about a quarter of our plate along with plenty of vegetables and lean protein foods.
Some people have found reducing their starchy carbohydrate intake below these levels helps them lose weight, and gives better control of their blood glucose levels if they have diabetes.
There are better choices that you can make with starchy foods that raise blood glucose levels much slower. Wholegrain varieties have a much lower glycaemic index so choose these when possible. Examples of these are brown or wild rice, ofada rice, rye or wholegrain bread, beans, bulgar wheat and sweet potatoes with their skin on which provide the most nutrients and contain higher levels of fibre.
Dairy includes things like milk, condensed or evaporated milk, coconut milk and yoghurt. You should aim to eat 2 – 3 portions of dairy a day.
Dairy products are a great source of calcium which is really important to keep your bones strong, protein, which is important to build and repair muscles, and vitamins.
Dairy products can sometimes be high in fat and sugar so check the labels and use lower sugar, low fat evaporated milk, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk where possible.
Beans, meat, fish, eggs, pulses and other proteins:
We should aim to eat 2–3 portions a day and 2 portions of fish, 1 of which is oily fish, per week.
All of these foods are good sources of protein, which is important for the body to grow and repair itself. They also contain vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc and B vitamins.
Red meat (like beef, goat, lamb and pork) is a great source of these nutrients, but it is important to consume these in moderation. The current recommendation is to eat no more than 3 portions a week.
Try to choose lean cuts of meat and cut off any visible fat. Limit the amount of red and processed meat, such as bacon, ham and salami as these tend to be higher in saturated fat.
Pulses such as beans, peas and egusi are good alternatives to meat in soups, stews and curries as they are great sources of protein and fibre and are lower in saturated fat.
Oily fish contains omega 3 fatty acids which are essential fatty acids that cannot be made by the body in sufficient amounts. They can lower triglycerides (a type of 'bad' fat found in the blood) and help protect against heart disease.
Examples of oily fish include fresh tuna, salmon, kippers, sardines and mackerel. Tinned mackerel and kippers are just as nutritious.
Oils and spreads:
We do need some fat in our diets but this should come from unsaturated fats such as sunflower, rapeseed and olive oils and spreads made from these oils.
Try to use healthier cooking oils made from plants or seeds like rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils rather than palm oil or coconut oil which are rich in saturated fat.
Too much fat in our diets, particularly saturated fats raises our cholesterol levels which increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
All types of oils and fats are high in energy (calories) which leads to weight gain, so only use small amounts. Whenever possible, air-fry, steam, grill, bake instead of frying. You can also consider air-frying your food, this is where you simply use heat to fry food instead of oil.
Foods high in fat, sugar and salt:
As part of a healthy diet, we don’t need any foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt.
Salt can raise blood pressure, so avoid adding salt to food and when cooking, use low salt stock cubes rather than ready made.
High fat/ sugar/ salt foods will damage our health and increase the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer and stroke.
Obvious examples of these types of foods are plantain chips, patties or pies, puff puff, chin chin, vetkoek, spice buns and sugary drinks. We should only eat these occasionally and in small amounts, as they are high in calories, saturated fat, sugar and salt, which over time can seriously affect our health.
Ready-made meals are also high in saturated fat and salt and sometimes have added sugar. Avoid buying ready-made meals and highly processed foods as they generally have little nutritive value.
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