Vegan Soul Food: Garbage or Game-Changer?
Slaves ate for survival, not for nutrition.
So when African Americans went ahead and consumed soul food for centuries on end, health in the black community became a fatal epidemic.
In 2020 half of the black population is obese, according to recent CDC reports. And African American women have the highest rates of obesity compared to any other minority group; about four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.
But perhaps most disturbing of all is that blacks and Hispanics lead the way for childhood obesity.
Sure you can blame a greater risk for chronic illnesses like type II diabetes, heart disease, and cancer on genetics, or we can point the finger at soul food a.k.a. the slave master’s scraps.
Scraps From the Slave Master
Soul food was the best of a bad situation. Slaves were fed scraps from their masters, often these were ligaments or unwanted parts of the food that lacked nutrition. But early slaves made do, and in turn, created the mouthwatering soul food we enjoy today.
Oxtails (oxen butts), cornbread, pig’s feet, ham hocks (pig ligaments), collard greens soaked in bacon, gizzards (organs found in the digestive tract), fatback, and the infamous 11-herb and spice dish, fried chicken.
These foods are staples of southern cuisine but need to be eaten in moderation.
This is why some restaurants are making a push to create healthier soul food. Places like the Seasoned Vegan in Harlem or The Land of Kush, a vegetarian soul food joint in Baltimore are changing the black community’s relationship with food.
“I heard about how bland vegan food was,” said owner of the Seasoned Vegan, Brenda Beener in an interview dnainfo.
“I heard that people of color wouldn’t be interested…[Now] some of my best customers are meat-eaters who told me that if they could eat like this every day they would be vegan.”
Vegan soul food is a game-changer; it’s heaven for vegans everywhere, but meat lovers will also find themselves gobsmacked by the flavor from the Seasoned Vegan. Soul food should not be able to taste that good while also preserving my waistline
Healthy soul food alternatives are popping up all over. Give them a try, you won’t regret it.
How to Eat Soul Food in Moderation
All this being said, you don’t have to abandon traditional soul food by restrictive dieting. Nobody wants to eat broccoli over fried chicken; salads instead of macaroni and cheese; brussel sprouts rather than Fred Flinstone-sized turkey legs.
This is why you don’t cut out foods, you gradually limit them. You’re setting yourself up for failure when you say: “This is it, I’m going to commit to a diet thing and never eat the foods I enjoy ever again.”
Instead, try telling yourself: “I’m going to start eating more nutritionally. I’ll incorporate a few healthier foods, maybe go out for vegan soul food over KFC once a month, but still, every once in a while enjoy the food I like.”
In other words, you can have your cake and eat it too.
95% of diets fail because people limit themselves too much. Personally, soul food isn’t a cheat meal for me. But you bet your grits I’ll get my hands on some oh-so-cheesy Tex-Mex on a cheat day.
Traditional soul food can and should be enjoyed in small doses; we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But we can’t keep enjoying these kinds of foods on a weekly or sometimes daily basis and then blame our obesity and chronic illnesses on crap genetics. Well, you could keep blaming it on genetics, but it’s not going to solve anything.
If we don’t hold ourselves accountable, black people will continue to get fatter and sicker. And with the kind of year we’re having, I say it’s time for a change.