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You Gotta Have Soul (Food): A Tasty New Twist On Tradition

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Whether your ancestors are directly out of Africa, from Jamaica, Trinidad, or any of the other exotic islands, the one thing that most African-Americans have in common is the intrinsic bond offered by their rich heritage and flavorful culture. Among the most decadent contributions of these “soulful” people(s) is their savory soul food.

Yet while these delightful dishes have nourished the souls and spirits of many African Americans throughout the centuries, may not have been as nourishing for their hearts and bodies.

Featuring not only lots of flavor, favorites from fried chicken and candied yams to chitlins and ham hocks also feature lots of salt, sugar, and fat. And, although many believe that “what doesn’t kill you, makes you strongly, that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to soul food, in fact, according to experts, it’s among the tastiest ways to contract high blood pressure and diabetes, both which have been taking a greater and greater toll on African Americans, and a notably higher rates than in Caucasians.

With the latest trend in culinary arts being health-conscious cuisine, many Black-Americans are jumping on the “Nouveau Soul” train and combining their (culinary) expertise and efforts in reinventing some of these time-honored classics, helping African Americans (and others who enjoy down-home cooking) improve their diets and their health.

The movement is becoming a nationwide effort to teach Black-Americans about other, more healthful alternatives to traditional down-home cooking, including spicing up collard greens with smoked turkey instead of port pat and serving baked chicken and fruit in place of fried chicken and biscuits. And some churches are even stepping up to the plate catering to the tastes of their parishioners with Healthy Homilies, followed by traditional, yet improved versions and variations of standard soul food that’s good for the body as well.

And, many (health-conscious) professions note that while there’s an unmistakable essence to soul food, the problems presented are all part of the preparation. And, many having been victims of the medical and weight problems posed by “country” cooking, are committed (albeit slowly but surely) to redefine and refine soul food, making it not only popular among all cultures but also reclaiming it in a much healthy way, proving that you can still eat ethnically but also healthfully.

And, one final “inspiration” (and perhaps blessing) is coming from the church itself, as many Black churches have partnered with the National Cancer Institute to offer Body & Soul programs. Also, more and more church leaders are pledging to incorporate more (fresh) fruits and vegetables in the meals and preach on the importance of healthy eating, especially in respecting and preserving our bodies, God’s temple.

Long Island Health, Fitness & Beauty Articles > You Gotta Have Soul (Food): A Tasty New Twist On Tradition

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