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  » Diet Information  »  Ethnic diets

• Diet may influence the types of illnesses or physical conditions present in a given culture. For example:

• Low intake of milk and dairy products may predispose to bone disorders, such as rickets or osteoporosis.

• High sodium (salt) intake is often a factor in hypertensions (high blood pressure).

• High caloric intake often causes people in certain cultural groups to be overweight. Obesity is a status symbol in some cultures.

• Intake of high amounts of fried foods and fats may predispose to atherosclerosis, gallbladder difficulties, and obesity.

• Long cooking of vegetables may cause deficiency of water-soluble vitamins.

• Foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat may predispose to blood vessel conditions, such as atherosclerosis and to obesity.

• High sugar intake may predispose to dental caries and obesity.

• Lactose intolerance in many people of a given race or ethnic group is reflected in their limited use of dairy products. Calcium needs must be met in another way (fermented cheeses or yougurt, for example).

• Certain ethnic foods may be difficult to obtain or may be expensive in the United States.

• Availability of foods has a direct bearing on the consumption of that food.

• Many immigrants change their eating habits after coming to the United States. This can either improve nutrition or predispose them to certain physical disorders.

• Easily accessible transportation of foods, mass communication, and “fast food” chains have resulted in a blending of many dietary practices.

• People of all ethnic groups have a source of starch or carbohydrate, whether it is pasta, potatoes, bread, or rice.

Diet in Relation to Illness

• Many people find comfort in traditional ethnic foods when ill, even if they do not follow these traditions when they are well.

• The family or the patient may insist on following religious or cultural practices during illness.

• Certain foods are ascribed "hot"or "cold"by some properties unrelated to temperature groups, and are eaten to offset or combat certain illness that are considered "hot" or "cold".

• Certain foods are believed to cause illness by some groups, who thus avoid these foods.

• Hospital food might not be acceptable because it violates a cultural or religious practice. In some cases, the ill person is "exempted" from following religious food practices during the illness.