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Whole Grain Benefits

This Dietitian Is Teaching People to Cook Nutritious African Dishes

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Key takeaways

  • African cuisines offer a diverse range of grains and leafy grains, but these are often left out of healthy eating suggestions and nutrition studies in the West.
  • As a result, people of African descent are not always given culturally inclusive nutrition advice when seeking tools for disease prevention or recovery.
  • Cordialis Msora-Kasago, a California-based registered dietitian who grew up in Zimbabwe, is working to educate more people about the nutritional benefits of African heritage foods.

When Cordialis Msora-Kasago, MA, RDN, founded The African Pot Nutrition (TAPN) in 2010, she was motivated by a deep love for her Zimbabwean heritage and a sharp anger at its lack of representation in Western nutrition manuals.

“Why don’t I see myself?” Msora-Kasago recalled asking herself on New Year’s Eve of 2009, as news anchors rattled off diet trends for the new year.

Based in Menifee, California, Msora-Kasago grew up in Zimbabwe and watched her grandfather prepare meals by stirring tiny pieces of meat into large pots of leafy greens. Small grains and vegetables are staples across many cuisines in sub-Saharan Africa, but their diets are often excluded from Western conversations about healthy eating, she said.

“There is a need for more people to hear about their foods and to see their food celebrated as part of an overall healthy eating,” Msora-Kasago said.

The US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate, which includes recipe suggestions based on cuisine, does not currently list any African recipes.

Cordialis Msora-Kasago, a California-based registered dietitian who grew up in Zimbabwe, is working to educate more people about the nutritional benefits of African heritage foods.

Using Food to Find Healing

At TAPN, which offers individualized and group nutrition counseling, Msora-Kasago uses African food to celebrate her culture and help people of African descent avoid or manage chronic conditions like hypertension.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects almost 1.3 billion people globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Of those, people in sub-Saharan Africa are among the least likely to be receiving treatment.

In the United States, hypertension rates are the highest among Black adults at 54%. The condition also affects 46% of White adults, 39% of Asian adults, and 36% of Hispanic adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Msora-Kasago writes on her blog about the risks of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension among African people, and how reliance on Western products may increase these risks. She also has a hard time finding nutritional information on African foods due to a lack of research and studies.

Her work is also influenced by her mother, who died from kidney failure in 2005. The physicians who treated her mother were not equipped to provide her with culturally relevant food suggestions and their guidance was unhelpful, Msora-Kasago said.

So she stepped in. Using her expertise as a dietitian, Msora-Kasago created a Zimbabwean meal plan for her mother to enjoy.

To do that, she looked at individual foods and their properties. Rather than telling her mother to avoid pizza as a doctor had suggested, Msora-Kasago evaluated why pizza was off limits. Pizza is high in sodium and potassium, which can be harmful to someone with chronic kidney disease.

She taught her mother to replace higher potassium vegetables like pumpkin leaves with lower potassium vegetables like cabbage, or to soak and drain pumpkin leaves to reduce their potassium content.

“What that gave her was the ability to heal through food and still live a meaningful quality of life,” Msora-Kasago said. “That was how my father was able to provide care in the last days, by making sure that she was fed and she was fed nutritious foods that she could relate to.”

It also meant teaching her mother to be mindful of portion sizes, reducing the amount of sadza on her plate. Sadza is a traditional Zimbabwean food that is made from maize meal, or cornmeal, and water. Maize meal is a grain comparable to rice or mashed potatoes and it can be served at any meal. It is also eaten in other African countries. In Kenya, for example, sadza is called ugali.

Msora-Kasago described sadza as the quintessential Zimbabwean dish that is a key component in her mother’s meal plan. “My mother was the type of person who would tell you ‘if you don’t feed me sadza at a meal, I have not eaten,’” Msora-Kasago added.

How to Make Sadza

To make sadza, Msora-Kasago adds the maize meal, or cornmeal, into a pot of water to make a paste while boiling a separate pot of water on the side. As the pot boils, she will begin to combine the hot water into the maize meal pot using a traditional mixing spoon called a mugoti. If more intense mixing is needed to eliminate lumps, she would use a long whisk with a wooden handle called a msika. Once combined, the sadza needs to simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. She will then add more maize meal bit by bit until the dish thickens.

Using Nutrition to Complement Culture

Many of Msora-Kasago’s clients came in thinking that they have to follow the Mediterranean diet to improve their health, but they often had a hard time eating some of the foods recommended.

For instance, salmon is praised as a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, but it’s not affordable for a lot of people. Sardines and small anchovies make for a more sensitive diet alternative for African or African Americans, she said.

“When I think of the Mediterranean diet, I am thinking of ‘what foods are in these eating patterns that make it so healthy?’ It’s about the abundance of fruits and vegetables and beans and whole grain, so I get to educate people on how they can include some of these similar foods in their diet,” Msora-Kasago said.

This means incorporating nutritious grains like sorghum and millet, root vegetables like yam and cassava, and leafy greens such as amaranth leaves, pumpkin leaves, and sweet potato leaves.

“Rather than putting halos on individual foods, looking at overall cultural eating patterns and celebrating the food from each culture is extremely important,” she added.

Equitable and inclusive eating guidelines must consider more than how specific ingredients affect the body, Msora-Kasago said. Eating choices, especially for immigrants, can shape people’s sense of community, she added.

“As I think of myself as an African immigrant in the United States, to me, food is my identity,” she said. “It is how I teach my children our culture—it’s that one piece that brings me back.”

What This Means For You

Many African cuisines include an abundance of local grains and leafy grains, but they’re not always mentioned in Western conversations about healthy eating.

Whole Grain Benefits

For the 55-and-over crowd, March 27-April 3, 2022 | Local News

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For information about services available to older adults, contact Pam Jacobsen, director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and Helen Mary Stevick Senior Citizens Center, 2102 Windsor Place, C, at 217-359-6500.

RSVP and the Stevick Center are administered by Family Service of Champaign County.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Active Senior Republicans in Champaign County’s monthly meeting will be held at 9:30 am on April 4 in the Robeson Pavilion Room A & B at the Champaign Public Library. This month’s speakers will be Jesse Reising, Regan Deering and Matt Hausman, Republican primary candidates for the newly redrawn 13th Congressional District.
  • Parkland Theater House needs four ushers each night for “The SpongeBob Musical,” opening April 14. There will be nine shows in total — April 14-16, April 22-24 and April 29-May 1. For details, call or email Michael Atherton, Parkland Theater House Manager, theatre@parkland.edu or 217-373-3874.
  • Parkland College also needs four volunteers for commencement. The commencement ceremony will be in person at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at 8 pm May 12. Volunteers needed from 6:30 to 8 pm For details, contact Tracy Kleparski, Director of Student Life, at TKleparski@parkland.edu or 217- 351-2206.
  • The Milford High School National Honor Society and Student Council is hosting a Senior Citizens Banquet at 6 pm April 22. The event will be held in the MAPS #124 Gymnasium (park at south doors at Milford High School. To RSVP, call Sandy Potter at 815-471-4213.

STEVICK CENTER ACTIVITIES

Knit or crochet for those in need:

Meditative Movement with Yoga:

  • 9 to 10:15 am Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Bingo:

  • 11 am to noon, second and fourth Tuesdays. Call 217-359-6500.

Bridge:

  • Noon to 3 pm Thursdays.

Euchar:

Card game 13:

  • To sign up to play, call 217-359-6500 and ask for Debbie.

Men’s group:

  • 9 am Monday-Friday. Join us for a cup of coffee and great conversation.

HOT LUNCH PROGRAM

The Peace Meal Nutrition Program provides daily hot lunches at 11:30 am for a small donation and a one-day advance reservation at sites in Champaign, Urbana, Rantoul, Sidney (home delivery only), Mahomet (home delivery only) and Homer.

For reservations, call 800-543-1770. Reservations for Monday need to be made by noon Friday.

NOTE: There is no change for home deliveries, but at congregate sites, you can get a carry-out meal.

Sunday:

  • BBQ pork sandwich, mini potato bakers, corn, creamy cole slaw, bun.

Tuesday:

  • Turkey pot roast with carrots and celery, Italian green beans, pineapple, whole grain roll.

Tuesday:

  • Savory sausage stew, broccoli, chunky apple sauce, biscuit, surprise dessert.

Tuesday:

  • Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and brown gravy, tomatoes and zucchini, apricots, whole-grain roll.

Friday:

  • Chef’s choice — regional favorites will be served.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

If you are 55 and older and want to volunteer in your community, RSVP (funded by AmeriCorps Seniors and the Illinois Department on Aging) provides a unique link to local nonprofits needing help. We offer support, benefits and a safe connection to partner sites.

Contact Pam Jacobsen at rsvpchampaign@gmail.com or 217-359-6500.

CURRENT NEEDS

Senior Volunteers.

  • RSVP of Champaign, Douglas and Piatt counties/AmeriCorps Senior Volunteers is your link to over 100 nonprofit organizations. Please contact Pam Jacobsen at rsvpchampaign@gmail.com or call 217-359-6500 for volunteer information.

Food for seniors. Handlers needed to unload boxes of food for repackaging at 7 am on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. We are looking for backup delivery drivers to deliver food to seniors. Contact Robbie Edwards at 217-359-6500 for info.

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Whole Grain Benefits

The future of nutrition advice

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By Lisa Drayer, CNN

(CNN) — Most of us know we should eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

So why would the National Institutes of Health spend $150 million to answer questions such as “What and when should we eat?” and “How can we improve the use of food as medicine?”

The answer may be precision nutrition, which aims to understand the health effects of the complex interplay among genetics, our microbiome (the bacteria living in our gut), our diet and level of physical activity, and other social and behavioral characteristics.

That means that everyone could have their own unique set of nutritional requirements.

How is that possible? I asked three experts who conduct precision nutrition research: Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology and chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and Martha Field and Angela Poole, both assistant professors in the division of nutritional sciences at Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology.

Below is an edited version of our conversation.

CNN: How is precision nutrition different from current nutrition advice?

dr Frank Hu: The idea of ​​precision nutrition is to have the right food, at the right amount, for the right person. Instead of providing general dietary recommendations for everyone, this precision approach tailors nutrition recommendations to individual characteristics, including one’s genetic background, microbiome, social and environmental factors, and more. This can help achieve better health outcomes.

CNN: Why is there no one-size-fits-all prescription when it comes to what we should be eating?

Huh: Not everyone responds to the same diet in the same way. For example, given the same weight-loss diet, some people can lose a lot of weight; other people may gain weight. A recent study in JAMA randomized a few hundred overweight individuals to a healthy low-carb or low-fat diet. After a year, there was almost an identical amount of weight loss for the two groups, but there was a huge variation between individuals within each group — some lost 20 pounds. Others gained 10 pounds.

Martha Field: Individuals have unique responses to diet, and the “fine adjust” of precision nutrition is understanding those responses. This means understanding interactions among genetics, individual differences in metabolism, and responses to exercise.

CNN: How do we eat based on precision nutrition principles now?

Huh: There are some examples of personalized diets for disease management, like a gluten-free diet for the management of celiac disease, or a lactose-free diet if you are lactose intolerant. For individuals with a condition known as PKU (phenylketonuria), they should consume (a) phenylalanine-free diet. It’s a rare condition but a classic example of how your genes can influence what type of diets you should consume.

Angela Poole: If I had a family history of high cholesterol, diabetes or colon cancer, I would increase my dietary fiber intake, eating a lot of different sources, including a variety of vegetables.

fields: If you have high blood pressure, you should be more conscious of sodium intake. Anyone with a malabsorption issue might have a need for higher levels of micronutrients such as B vitamins and some minerals.

CNN: There is research showing that people metabolize coffee differently. What are the implications here?

Huh: Some people carry fast caffeine-metabolizing genes; others carry slow genes. If you carry fast (metabolizing) genotypes, you can drink a lot of caffeinated coffee because caffeine is broken down quickly. If you are a slow metabolizer, you get jittery and may not be able to sleep if you drink coffee in the afternoon. If that’s the case, you can drink decaf coffee and still get the benefits of coffee’s polyphenols, which are associated with decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes without the effects of caffeine.

CNN: How much of a role do our individual genes play in our risk of disease? And can our behavior mitigate our disease risk?

Huh: Our health is affected by both genes and diets, which constantly interact with each other because certain dietary factors can turn on or off some disease-related genes. We published research showing that reducing consumption of sugary beverages can offset the negative effects of obesity genes. That’s really good news. Our genes are not our destiny.

Another area of ​​precision nutrition is to measure blood or urine metabolites, small molecules produced during the breakdown and ingestion of food. For example, having a higher concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) strongly predicts one’s future risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The blood levels of BCAAs depend on individuals’ diet, genes and gut microbiome. We found that eating a healthy (Mediterranean-style) diet can mitigate harmful effects of BCAAs on cardiovascular disease. So measuring BCAAs in your blood may help to evaluate your risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease and encourage dietary changes that can lower the risk of chronic diseases down the road.

fields: The environmental effects can sometimes be on the same magnitude as the genetic effects with respect to risk for disease.

CNN: Our individual microbiomes may be able to dictate what type of diet we should be consuming. Can you tell us about this emerging research? And what do you think of microbiome tests?

Poole: Research has shown that in some people, their blood sugar will spike higher from eating bananas than from eating cookies, and this has been associated with microbiome composition. Scientists have used microbiome data to build algorithms that can predict an individual’s glucose response, and this is a major advance. But that’s not an excuse for me to shovel down cookies instead of bananas. Likewise, if the algorithm suggests eating white bread instead of whole-wheat bread due to blood glucose responses, I wouldn’t just eat white bread all the time.

At the moment, I’m not ready to spend a lot of money to see what’s in my gut microbiome… and the microbiome changes over time.

Huh: Microbiome tests are not cheap, and the promise that this test can help develop a personalized meal plan that can improve blood sugar and blood cholesterol … at this point, the data are not conclusive.

CNN: How will nutrition advice be different 10 years from now?

Poole: I think you will receive a custom-tailored grocery list on an app — foods that you want to buy and foods that you want to avoid, based on your blood sugar responses to foods, your level of physical activity and more.

Huh: We will have more and better biomarkers and more affordable and accurate nutrigenomics and microbiome tests as well as better computer algorithms that predict your response to food intakes.

But these technologies cannot substitute general nutrition principles such as limiting sodium and added sugar and eating more healthy plant foods. In a few years, you may be able to get a more useful response from Alexa if you ask her what you should eat — but like other answers from Alexa, you’ll have to take it with a grain of salt.

The CNN Wire
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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Whole Grain Benefits

Are Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches Healthy?

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In order to assess its nutritional value, first we must discuss the breakdown of this sandwich.

Typically, there are three main ingredients — bread, peanut butter, and jelly — each with different nutritional values.

Nutritional value of bread

Bread can be a part of a balanced diet. The nutritional value of bread depends on the type chosen.

For starters, whole-grain bread is the best option because it provides a higher amount of nutrients. Whole grain kernels have three parts: the bran, endosperm, and germ (1).

Because whole grain bread retains all three parts, it’s higher in protein and fiber compared with other breads. These nutrients slow the absorption of sugar into your blood stream and keep you full longer (2, 3).

Whole grain bread is also richer in key nutrients, like B vitamins, iron, folate, and magnesium. Look for the word “whole” as part of the first ingredient in bread’s nutritional label (2).

Choosing sprouted grain bread, like Ezekiel bread, is also an excellent choice. The sprouting process increases digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients. Studies show sprouted bread has more fiber, vitamin E, and vitamin C, and beta-glucan (4).

Sourdough bread is fine, too. Although it’s not as high in fiber and protein, it has a lower glycemic index than white bread.

Glycemic index measures how quickly food increases blood sugars. In general, foods with a lower glycemic index better support your overall health.

But keep in mind that glycemic index doesn’t tell the whole story. We must look at the meal as a whole — for example, what we add to the bread. Nutrients, like protein and fats, can help lower the overall glycemic load of a meal, and serving sizes also play a role (5).

As a guideline, look for whole grain breads that offer at least 2 grams of fiber per slice. We also suggest using bread that contains 3 grams of protein or more per slice.

If that’s not available, sourdough bread may be your next best option.

Summary

Choose breads that are higher in fiber and protein, like whole grain bread or sprouted grain bread. These varieties help slow absorption of sugars and keep you full longer.

Nutritional value of peanut butter

Many people find peanut butter delicious.

Nutritionally, it also delivers. Peanut butter is a good source of protein and healthy fats, important for all stages of life, especially growing children. Plus, it’s a good source of fiber.

Two tablespoons (32 grams) of smooth peanut butter contain 7 grams of protein, 16 grams of fats, and 2 grams of fiber (6).

Importantly, the majority of fats in peanut butter are unsaturated fats. Research consistently indicates that replacing saturated fats found in animal products with more unsaturated fats (like those in peanut butter) may lower cholesterol and improve heart health (7, 8).

For growing kids, healthy fats are vital for healthy development. Plus, fats help absorb the vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which play a synergistic role in supporting immune and brain health (9, 10).

Contrary to popular belief, conventional peanut butter doesn’t usually have more sugar than 100% natural peanut butter. However, it may have more salt (6).

When shopping, check the nutrition labels to ensure it doesn’t contain additional ingredients other than peanuts.

When enjoying natural peanut butter, the oil will separate from the peanut butter. Not to fret — just give it a good stir! This helps mix the oils with the solids.

Pro tip: You can store peanut butter upside down in the fridge to keep it from separating again!

Summary

When available, choose 100% natural peanut butter, as it’s lower in salt. Remember to stir the peanut butter before eating to mix the oils with the solids.

Nutritional value of jelly

The PB&J sandwich isn’t complete without jelly or jam. What’s the difference, anyway?

Well, while jellies and jams have similar nutritional value and taste, there’s a slight difference: Jellies are made with fruit juice, while jam is made with the fruit juice and pulp (7).

Both jellies and jams contain pectin (artificially added to jelly), which has prebiotic effects that may improve gut health (8).

However, both are naturally high in sugar, so enjoy them in moderation. To have more say in the ingredients used, you can try making your jelly at home.

If you’re buying from a store, look for jellies with no added sugar in the ingredients list. Alternative names for added sugars include glucose, sucrose, dextrose, and fructose.

Summary

Jellies are high in natural sugars and contain pectins that may have a beneficial effect in promoting good health. Try to choose jellies with no added sugars.

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