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All religious systems in one way or another regulate the life of all their adherents establishing norms and rules of appropriate conduct in different situations and dictating the attitude to certain things and phenomena. And of course, in practically all existing religions, much attention is paid to such an important aspect as a human nutrition culture. One can find a lot of standards and regulations concerning the issue. The given paper focuses on the peculiarities of the nutrition culture of the followers of one of the most widespread religions in the contemporary world, Catholicism. Moreover, the specific aspects of food of the peoples of the Latin American origin will be considered as well.

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The Analysis of the Traditional Latin American Cuisine and Its Impact on Peoples Health

General Information on Latin American Cuisine

Many traditional dishes of the New World are based on the local Indians’ cuisine and the Latin American meals are not an exception. Furthermore, garlic, onions, pork, beef, wheat, and wine came to Latin America with Europeans. A distinctive feature of the given cuisine can be called the severity of the dishes as numerous additives are used while cooking them. All meals contain different types of hot peppers, and hot sauces are prepared as a seasoning for main courses using various spices.

In general, Latin American cuisine is characterized by the use of beef, pork, seafood (tuna, shrimp, perch, mullet, mollusks, lobsters, turtles), cheese, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, rice, and corn. The latter has always been an important food product for Latin Americans, and scones, porridge, and even refreshing drinks are prepared using it. For example, Mexican cuisine has become famous for its thin tortillas from corn flour, which serve as the basis for various “rolls”. In particular, the most well-known are quesadilla (stuffed with chicken, mushrooms, and cheese), burrito (with beef, cheese, beans, onions and sauce), and fajita (with grilled meat and vegetables).

At the same time, Latinos consume a large number of different fruits and vegetables. Chayote, which looks like a ribbed pear, is very popular there. This vegetable can weigh 180-360g; it has light green rather thick skin and crispy white flesh with a delicate taste. It is used for food in baked and stewed form, as one of the ingredients in casseroles, and sometimes, raw in salads. Moreover, Mexican cuisine is famous for using cacti that are sold almost everywhere. They are used fresh in salads, fried, or prepared as chips.

As it has already been stated, all dishes prepared by Latin Americans are almost always accompanied by spicy seasonings and gravies, and the most popular of them is salsa sauce. One can try it in any good Mexican restaurant all around the world. Salsa is made from tomatoes and chili; it has long been a “visiting card” of the cuisine under analysis. Other famous seasonings are guacamole, chimichurri, and pico de gallo. Guacamole is made from avocado puree, lemon juice, and salt. Sometimes, tomatoes, various peppers (including chili), green or other onions, garlic, and coriander can be added to it. In the chimichurri, there are olive oil, garlic, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, black, and cayenne peppers. Pico de galpo is a sauce from crushed tomatoes, onions, and chili.

The Effects of the Latin American Dishes on Peoples Health

As far as health effects are concerned, there is a recent trend towards healthy eating among Latin Americans. As doctors say, the food of Latin Americans cannot be attributed to the category of the healthy one. In fact, any dish that is a part of the given cuisine is characterized by a large content of spicy seasonings that make the tongue and the whole oral cavity burn. Furthermore, European medicine claims that these meals are completely unacceptable and contribute to the disruption of metabolism and a number of gastrointestinal diseases. However, the average life expectancy in most Latin American countries is about 76.5 years old, which may indicate the good health of their citizens (P?rez-Escamilla, 2009). What is more, traditional food also allows them to endure serious diseases, as well as withstand enormous physical exertion. Therefore, it turns out that not all hot and spicy dishes reduce the life of a person; it seems they may prolong it.

In any case, Latin American meals have negative consequences for the human body. Particularly, they lead to the development of gastritis, heartburn, bad breath, and sensitive taste receptors. Thus, it should be remembered that it is necessary to introduce such products into the diet very carefully. Obviously, any negative manifestations are a signal for further refusal of spicy dishes. One has to remember that at the moments when the body is weakened, the reaction to exotic spices may turn out to be unexpected, and inoffensive curry and ginger can provoke an allergy (Whitney & Rolfes, 2015).

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The Impact of Catholicism on Peoples Diet

Catholicism is the most wide-spread religion among the representatives of the Latin American nations. Speaking about nutrition norms present in the Catholic Church, one can say that it has followed the path of weakening the strictness of the given rules. One of the characteristic features of the religion is fasting. Catholics assert that it is a means of achieving true spiritual freedom. It teaches the believer to control his/her actions better and gives them an opportunity to share with others. Historically, the restrictions concerning food are much milder among western Christians than the eastern ones. Only meat should not be consumed, while other products of the animal origin are considered lean (Piper, 1997). It has to be underlines that in the Catholic Church, fasting is limited by age; only individuals older than 14 can keep the fast (Piper, 1997).

The beneficial effect of fasting on health cannot be ignored. First of all, it liberally frees the human body from poisons accumulated in it and serves as a preventive measure against illnesses caused by malnutrition. Moreover, the rules of fasting are of the greatest value for fighting diseases that undermine peoples health today. The list of the most serious of them includes atherosclerosis, arterial hypertension, myocardial infarction, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and certain malignant tumors.

However, from the medical and hygienic standpoints, nutrition during fasting can also have negative effects on the body, which is largely determined by the age, health state, work patterns and other factors, including the characteristics of the food itself. Modern doctors believe that lean food is inadequate: it cannot provide a person with all the necessary useful substances and elements, especially amino acids. Keeping the fast and not consuming certain kinds of food, a person runs the risk of getting all sorts of metabolic disorders, protein dystrophy, dysbiosis, and sexual weakness. It can also aggravate atherosclerosis, and therefore, result in a heart attack. It may seem that everything should be the other way around because people limit the intake of meat and fat that are the main sources of cholesterol which, in turn, is the main culprit of atherosclerosis. However, if one limits cholesterol consumption, the body begins to synthesize it, unfortunately, in an “aggressive” form.

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The Discussion of Health Promotion Strategies for the Identified Risks

Health promotion activities in the broadest sense include actions to strengthen and protect health. They often depend on the person’s age and development, lifestyle and risk factors characteristic of this particular group. Young age is the period of optimal physical functioning of the body, time of the greatest strength and speed. As for a patient in this age group, a nurse can help to carry out health promotion activities in the following areas: prevention of injury, early detection of the disease, the formation of a healthy lifestyle, assistance in matters of reproductive health, prevention of bad habits, the organization of motor activity, mental health.

With the onset of the middle age, signs of aging begin to predominate over the ones of development. Some of the activities needed to promote health in this period include: the adoption of aging, regular exercise, control of body weight, refusal from consumption of cigarettes and alcohol, conducting preventive screening tests. One can also resort to the individual or group counseling in order to obtain the necessary information concerning healthy lifestyle and nutrition. Lastly, speaking about the old age, most senior individuals should be informed on how to avoid falls that are rather often and usually occur in or near the house, for example, on slippery floor or icy road, how to use medicines, what food to consume. They should also be encouraged to do some physical activity (Jackson, Perkins, Khandor, Cordwell, Hamann, & Buasai, 2006). In general, you can significantly improve your health if you follow 7 recommendations. One has to have 7-8-hour sleep every day, have three meals a day at the same time without overeating, have breakfast, support normal body weight (if necessary, follow a diet by blood group), abstain from excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, do exercises on a daily basis and completely abandon smoking.

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To sum up, each national cuisine has its own peculiarities, which in one way or another influence the state of peoples health. For instance, Latin-American meals are characterized by the use of hot spices in cooking. At the same time, the common feature of the Catholicism that is the main religion of the region involves abstaining from junk food and even a refusal of the some kinds of products especially during fasting. There are both advantages and disadvantages of Latin American diet which are being studied by practitioners who provide people with various strategies of improving health and avoiding negative consequences.

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