Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Rich and Healthy Foods for a Traditional Soul Food Dinner


Soul Food: Health Risk?

The foods we associate with traditional soul food spreads are also usually associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases. Many dishes are cooked with lard or other saturated fats, but despite this, soul food doesn't have to be unhealthy food.

Today, soul food is comfort food to many Americans -- it's the food we grew up with in our homes. And much like other types of comfort foods, many of our favorites are not the best for health. Unfortunately, African-Americans are more likely to be unhealthy and suffer premature death than Caucasian Americans.

African-Americans are also more likely to develop diabetes -- a chronic disease that raises your risk of nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease and stroke as well as your risk of losing your eyesight or losing a limb. Almost 15 percent (3.7 million) of African-Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a higher incidence than for whites or Hispanics living in the U.S. [source: CDC, American Diabetes Association]. The African- American community also has higher rates of hypertension and obesity.

One way to approach a soul food supper more healthfully while still serving traditional soul foods is with the Oldways African Heritage Diet. The African Heritage Diet is a way of eating based on those comforting soul foods we all love, but with a focus on the healthier side of soul food eating. The African Heritage Diet Pyramid is put together by not only health and nutrition experts but also by culinary historians -- culinary tradition is important here, tradition that comes from not only the American Deep South but from Africa, South America and the Caribbean as well -- traditions from times before the African diaspora and the slave trade that began in the 15th century..


More to Explore