Soul food is the traditional cuisine of African Americans. Meals range from simple family dinners of rice and beans, fried chicken and pork slaw, to tables laden with sweet potatoes, scrambled pork chops, okra, peas, macaroni and cornbread, and sweet potato peach pie.
Soul food is an integral part of black food culture and often evokes strong feelings of home, family, and togetherness.
Is soul food healthy?
The southern diet, often associated with soul foods, contains organ meats, processed meats, eggs, fried foods, added fats, and sweetened beverages. This eating pattern is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, stroke, and mental decline. While socioeconomic disparities play an important role in these disproportionate rates of illness, dietary choices can also contribute.
However, this does not mean that all soul food is unhealthy. Nutrient-dense dishes and leafy greens are also soul staples.
Choose more vegetarian foods
Traditional African diets are plant-based and include a variety of fruits and vegetables, including green leafy vegetables, melons, whole grains, and black-eyed peas.
In traditional societies, meat, when consumed, was consumed in very small quantities and often as a condiment.
Diets that include a lot of plant foods are associated with moderate body weights and a reduced risk of disease.
Tips to increase your intake of plant foods
- Make sure half of your plate contains non-starchy vegetables, such as greens, eggplant, okra, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and turnips.
- Substitute meat for legumes, nuts or seeds as the main source of protein. Examples of these plant foods include lentils, beans, peanuts, and black peas.
- Diversify your diet by eating roots and tubers, such as sweet potatoes, squash, and squash.
- Eat raw vegetables, nuts, and seeds instead of high-fat, sugary options like potato chips and pretzels.
- Try to have at least two colorful plant foods on each plate, for example, collard greens and roasted squash or an apple with a handful of walnuts.