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Classes aim to hook obese Americans on African foods

NEW LIFESTYLE: Dietician Mandy Willing teaches a cooking class focusing on African foods and methods in Alabama

A SCHEME in the US is promoting healthy eating to obese black Americans by encouraging them to eat African food.

Almost 500 people across the United States have already participated in the programme which teaches cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine.

Aimed at black Americans, the Taste of African Heritage classes are sponsored by the Boston-based nonprofit company, Oldways, which promotes healthier eating through traditional foods.

Sessions are held nationwide to encourage people to banish fast food and processed meals and get comfortable in the kitchen cooking fresh food, according to the Miami Herald.

In a world of cheeseburgers and fried chicken, participants are learning to use ingredients such as beans, greens, rice, grains, vegetables and spices that are common in traditional African dishes.

After only a few weeks attending a class at a church in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, Rickey Dorsey said he's already lost a few pounds and has more confidence about what and how to cook.

"It was so interesting learning about the African culture," he said.
Classmate Sharon Reid, 54, said she's heard of ingredients like raw ginger for years but didn't know what to do with them.

"This is fresh stuff," she said. "And they teach you how to eat and to cut back on all the salt and stuff."

Formed in 1990, Oldways emphasises traditional, plant-based diets like those from the Mediterranean region, Asia and Latin America over the processed items common in many American homes and restaurants.

Following a pilot program held in 2012 for the African classes, the organisation last year began using a $250,000 grant from American food retailer Walmart to offer six-session classes across the country.

African cooking classes have been held in San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C.

Mandy Willing, a dietitian and assistant professor at the University of Alabama, and who is also serving as a volunteer instructor for the class, said: "[The course] is designed exactly to show us that the actual African heritage consisted of lots of fruits and vegetables [and] grains."

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