Cultural Food Exchange

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The Great American Melting Pot is a medley of cultures and people.  What happens to traditional diets when people immigrate?  How is their nutrition compromised as a result?  Liz Mintz of the Latino Nutrition Coalition talks about these questions as they specifically relate to the Latin American culture, where diabetes has a much stronger presence than other populations.

The Latin American diet is a very healthy one, in the country of origin.  In fact, even here in the U.S. Latinos have the highest rate of having meals together as a family.  Their diet is based on very fresh foods, typically prepared at home, in the country of origin.  So, what's the problem?  Once in the U.S., some things change.

In Latin America, some food items are prohibitively expensive – like McDonalds, for example. When Latinos come to the U.S. suddenly they can afford to eat there.  And, since it was so expensive at home, it feels like it must be good.  Their diets tend to get filled with fast food as a result.

The overriding historical concept for Latinos is to eat whatever you could acquire.  Liz is working to re-educate and reframe that perspective.  So instead of eating what one can afford financially, it shifts to what one can afford nutritionally.

She said that historically, “people who had the luxury of over-eating made it to the Rubens canvases.”  For the most part, people were eating just enough to get by.  And mostly fresh foods.

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