Culture and Food Practices of African American Women With Type 2 Diabetes

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Abstract

Purpose

The goals of this descriptive ethnographic study were to (1) describe the day-to-day selection, preparation, and consumption of food among African American women (AAW) with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM); (2) identify their typical food selections and consumption practices when dining out at restaurants and at social gatherings (ie, church functions, holidays); (3) highlight the valued behaviors and beliefs that influence these women’s food practices; and (4) determine how social interactions influence those food practices.

Methods

Symbolic interactionism, a sensitizing framework, guided this study. Purposeful sampling was used to recruit 20 AAW from 35 to 70 years of age diagnosed with T2DM who shopped and prepared meals for their families and attended church functions where food was served. Data collection consisted of one-on-one interviews and observations of participants during church fellowship dinners, grocery shopping, and food preparation. A social anthropological approach to content analysis was used to describe behavioral regularities in food practices.

Results

Informants exhibited a constant struggle in food practices, particularly within the home setting. Difficulties in making dietary modifications resulted from conflicts between the need to change dietary practices to control diabetes and personal food preferences, food preferences of family members, and AAW’s emotional dedication to the symbolism of food derived from traditional cultural food practices passed down from generation to generation.

Conclusions

African American women are the gatekeepers for family food practices, holding the keys to healthy dietary practices. This study helps to fill the research gap regarding cultural dietary food practices within this population.

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