ASN member Dr. Samara Sterling, Research Director at The Peanut Institute, lamented that “sometimes we don’t think about cultural palatability, in other words, taking the foods that are already present within a culture and thinking about ways to healthfully prepare those foods. Instead, often what we see is what we call ‘dietary assimilation,’ where we try to completely transform a diet to something that people are just not used to. We need to make sure that, specifically within Black and Brown populations, the richness of flavor is there and the richness of cultural heritage is there, because it is such a big part of who we are. We want to make sure our nutrition interventions aren’t losing people because we don’t take advantage of this really important aspect.”
We need to make sure that, specifically within black and brown populations, the richness of flavor is there and the richness of cultural heritage is there.
You can watch and listen to the full interview with Dr. Sterling on ASN Member Spotlight: Celebrating Black History Month. Dr. Sterling discusses not only cultural palatability, but also her Jamaican heritage, diversity in nutrition science, and much more.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 concurs with Dr. Sterling’s thoughts on cultural palatability, stressing the importance of diets that are not only healthy, but also meet consumers’ “food preferences, cultural traditions and customs, and budgetary considerations.”
Research Designs to Account for Diversity and Inclusiveness and Impact Food Guidance Policy
Developed by ASN’s Committee on Advocacy and Science Policy (CASP) in partnership with the ASN Minority and Diversity Affairs Committee (MDAC), this webinar recording focuses on the consideration of diversity and inclusion when conducting research to inform and implement food and nutrition guidance policy. This webinar is part of the CASP Nutrition Policy Webinar series, designed to help ASN members better understand the interface between research and nutrition policy.
ASN Journals, particularly Current Developments in Nutrition (CDN), also address cultural palatability, presenting scientific research that supports the need to frame nutrition within cultural contexts. “Exploring Accessibility of Culturally Relevant Foods in a Low-Income Neighborhood in Baltimore City,” for example, sought to identify culturally relevant foods for African Americans living in Northeast Baltimore as well as to assess the accessibility of these foods at community stores. ASN member Kaitlyn Harper et al found that “culturally relevant foods for adult African Americans living in Baltimore are widely available in large food retail stores.” On the other hand, these foods were “only moderately available in medium sized grocery stores, and sparsely available in dollar stores.” As these smaller neighborhood stores tend to be more accessible, it made it more difficult for community residents to purchase many of their preferred foods.
“In Cultural Perceptions of Healthy Eating in the Latino Multiethnic Population in Boston, MA,” Areli Caballero-Gonzalez et al. conducted in-depth Spanish language interviews to identify both shared and divergent dietary beliefs and attitudes among Latino adults living in the Boston metro area. The authors found that their survey population had both shared and ethnic-specific cultural beliefs and motivations for healthy eating. For example, “Dominicans and Puerto Ricans mentioned weight loss, appearance, and health (to care for their family) as a main incentive to eat healthier, while other Latino heritages mentioned variety, reduced costs, and being a role model for their family.” Overall, the authors believe their research findings “will help create tailored dietary interventions for the Latino community in Boston using deep-cultural strategies.”
Explore CDN’s Food and Nutrition of Indigenous Peoples
Many tribes and Indigenous communities are collaborating with academic researchers to develop innovative solutions that build on the inherent strengths and traditions of their communities. Edited by ASN member Mindy Kurzer, Food and Nutrition of Indigenous Peoples, a new section of CDN, highlights the best scholarship in this area, from both academic and Indigenous perspectives.
Traditional food…is what made my grandmother and mother healthy, that is where their strength came from.
Research exploring cultural palatability issues plays a strong role in this section. In “Facilitators and Barriers to Healthy Eating among American Indian and Alaska Native Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: Stakeholder Perspectives,” for example, Sarah A. Stotz conducted a series of focus groups and interviews with American Indian and Alaska Native adults with type 2 diabetes and their families to learn how to adapt an existing diabetes nutrition education program to their needs. Focus group participants shared the importance of including traditional foods in diabetes nutrition education. One focus group participant commented, “traditional food, even if I can’t get it all the time, I know that is what made my grandmother and mother healthy, that is where their strength came from all those years, the food they grew and collected, I know that is the source of their health.”
ASN is keen to further expand and develop our coverage of cultural palatability and nutrition. If you are conducting research in this area, please consider submitting your important research findings to an ASN Journal. There’s never been a better time to publish with ASN: Our Board of Directors has recently committed to a strategic roadmap that, among its many goals, is improving the ease and speed of publishing with ASN as well as improving the discoverability of your journal content.