On a recent sketch on SNL, two hosts of a gospel-themed cooking show cooked soul food while talking about people they know dying from heart disease and diabetes. It might come across as funny, but it holds a kernel of truth about soul food and its link to health issues.
Soul food – it’s the food of our ancestors, who through their culinary ingenuity found liberation and joy from what were considered base ingredients. These recipes have been passed down by memorization from one generation to the next, setting the foundation of our rich culture. But the hard truth is that these recipes aren’t exactly compatible with a healthy life style.
As much as we need to celebrate soul food, we also need to acknowledge the adverse effect of this diet. Soul food might be good for the soul, but the OG recipes are also heart killers. In 2017, American Heart Association’s journal Circulation reported that the African Americans live shorter lives due to cardiac issues. These issues were attributed to stress and poor diet that leaned heavily towards greasy foods.
For those who don’t know, here’s the science behind heart disease and greasy foods: eating foods that have a lot of saturated or trans fats raises the cholesterol. The excess cholesterol deposits into arteries which make it difficult for blood to pass through to the heart, leading to cardiac arrest.
Now here’s the problem; you don’t want to stray from the fine food culture but also don’t want to die. The real passionate ones among us would even say that it’s not worth living without southern-style fried chicken, BBQ short ribs, chitlins, corn bread and sweet potato pie. No need to go to this extreme; the answer lies in moderation and making healthy choices.
Luckily, soul food isn’t all slow-cooked offal. You can do a healthy version of it by focusing more on the greens. The Oldways African Heritage Diet offers an alternative which is close to the healthy eating habits of our African ancestors. The diet consists of fresh vegetables and fruits, tubers like yams, beans, nuts, fish, eggs, poultry and yogurt while cutting down too much sodium, sugar and meats. This diet offers a way to stay linked to our heritage while also being healthy. Don’t despair; you can still dig into ribs, but only sometimes.
By having a healthy diet, you will not only overcome heart problems but also Type-2 Diabetes, another endemic within the Black community. Let’s set a healthy example for the new generation by making better diet choices and adapting healthier habits.