According to data reported by Oldways, Boston, MA, more than one in six Hispanic high school students is obese, and an additional 17% of young Hispanics are at risk for becoming obese. When adjusted for age, more than 10% of Latinos over the age of 20 have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death for Hispanics, and it is estimated that one in every 236 African-, Hispanic- and Asian-American is gluten-intolerant. Acculturation is often cited as a source for these chronic health issues.
These statistics are raising red flags, and educating Hispanics on the benefits of eating healthy is becoming more of a focus. Influential bakers such as Grupo Bimbo, Mexico City, Mexico, are leading this education campaign. Bimbo is working with the Whole Grains Council and Oldways to promote the consumption of whole grains in Central and South America. As part of this effort, the Whole Grain stamp graphic was translated into Spanish and Portuguese, and Bimbo met with regulators and health authorities in these regions to raise awareness about the importance of incorporating whole grains into the Hispanic diet. For its efforts, Bimbo received the Whole Grains Council’s annual Global Award this year for its work in bringing whole grains to Central and South America, as well as China.
In support of this educational initiative, Oldways devotes an entire section of its website to Latino nutrition. The section includes the Latino Living newsletter, a food pyramid and basic nutrition and health information geared toward the Hispanic community. All materials are presented in both Spanish and English.
In general, food companies have stepped up their efforts to develop products with healthier nutritional profiles. Many are finding ways to reduce the sugar, fat and sodium content in their products without sacrificing that all-important ingredient: flavor. Other companies are expanding their product offerings to include healthier alternatives such as all-natural, gluten-free snacks.
When promoting the health aspects and nutritional value of their products, Sylvia Meléndez-Klinger, the founder of Hispanic Food Communications, Chicago, IL, and a member of the Grain Foods Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board, encourages her clients to take advantage of their packaging. “Educate Hispanic consumers through your packaging,” she said. “Don’t just say, ‘Our product has folic acid.’ Elaborate. Highlight the benefits of folic acid. Use a simple message, and tell why it’s good for the consumer. Tell why it’s important.”