Good for the soul, bad for your health

Photo credit: Sydne Vigille

My father went into surgery today.

It was a simple procedure to determine whether or not my father’s arteries are still clogged. A procedure that preps for four hours and takes less than half an hour to execute.

In April 2017 my dad, Kevin Dysard, had a heart attack. It was partly due to having clogged arteries. He is the type of person to eat a hearty meal after a day of hard work and he would always participate in the weekly Sunday dinners my family hosted.    

His typical meal consisted of what the black community calls ‘soul food.’ Soul food usually consists of foods such as macaroni and cheese, collard greens, fried chicken, corn bread, and yams.

These type of foods are a part of the African-American culture. Social gatherings and Sunday dinners were often complete with the fatty foods.

“At my grandma’s house, there’s a big table of good, unhealthy food and everyone comes over. Then you sit around and talk and laugh about your day and whatnot,” explained Kaprisha Hamm, a sophomore pre-nursing student.

According to The State of Obesity, the adult obesity rate is 34.9 percent, with African-Americans holding 57.8 percent. African-Americans are also more likely to get diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, all thanks to soul food.

“Soul food can be healthy by substituting different spices or using margarine instead of butter,” said Jovanny Clarke, a junior scholar. “Just by using alternatives to cook healthier.”

Soul food is usually heavily seasoned and is cooked with plenty of butter. This type of cooking is usually passed down from generation to generation.

“I’ll be cooking it the way I was taught. I’m not going to make it healthier,” said Hamm. “It’s just a culture thing.”

Clarke, who did not grow up on Sunday dinners, believes that while influential, soul food is not a pivotal part of African-American culture.

“In this day and age we have a lot of African-Americans trying to make their diet healthier by going vegetarian, vegan, or pescetarian,” said Clarke.

While the healthiness of soul food may be lacking, there is no doubt that the heavily seasoned food has touched many souls.

Clark also stated, “soul food, in essence, has gathered a lot of families and groups together as far as unity over good cooking.”