Does your auntie’s mac and cheese taste the way joy feels? I bet your Grandma fixes corn bread that might as well be a dessert in itself. Not to mention your Uncle, who makes his special sauce for the ribs, and we all have that one person who is designated sweet potato pie maker.
Has the above description been your life this past holiday season?
The most apparent issue with the health of black people is that this description happens not only during the holidays, but every week.
The leading cause of death among all races is heart disease, which is caused by plaque buildup. All the so called “comfort food” is laced with toxins that are set up to kill us. But specifically, in the black community, who is to really blame for this epidemic? It is commonly known that soul food derives from the institution of slavery. The food that was deemed useless is now one of the most sought after cuisines in the world. Soul food can be found everywhere from your local mom and pop shop to the five-star restaurant downtown. Society can easily blame black people on their own health issues. However, after one truly examines the history of black America, the question is, have African Americans been set up for failure?
There are three things you are guaranteed to find in the hood: corner stores, churches and a Chinese food spot. A corner store may not have traditional soul food, but there is a good chance one can find a can of Glory Greens and Bruce’s Yams. Every black Church in America comes with a 1,600 calorie brunch after service. When you combine this with a fast food restaurant whose “healthy” selling point is “no GMO,” who is to really blame? Due to systemic slavery, eminent domain and the 1999 crime bill, black people are literally being pushed into these communities. Food deserts are another reason why black Americans are at a lost of quality food. There are several pockets in America where grocery stores are difficult to find. Even if there is a store nearby, it is probably a discount grocery store with less than satisfactory produce. It is ironic that the people who built this country can barely afford to eat in it.
But all is not lost! There is a new wave of black vegans, who are bringing affordable and healthy food options to the masses. Which was once a rarity, veganism is a diet that is somewhat accessible. Typically, vegans substitute meat protein with beans, legumes and soy. Soy has amazing benefits — being an excellent source of calcium, iron omega-3 fatty acids. Soy has even been shown to lower LDL, which is the Cholesterol that is associated with heart disease. Soy does come with vital some health risks like depressed thyroid, brain damage and birth defects.
The particular problem with soy and the black vegan community is that a large portion of vegan soul food is made with soy. Soul food is comfort food. Just because it is vegan does not make it magically healthy. If you plan on dieting, eating BBQ tofu everyday may not get you a desired result. Vegan based BBQ sauce, butter and ice cream are still packed with sugar and fat. Vegan soul food should almost be treated like typical soul food — eaten sparingly.
Where does this leave people of the inner city? Sadly, there may not be a probable solution in sight. Currently, African Americans are 1.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than white Americans. This is decrease from over four percent in 2010. However, diabetes and heart disease are still prevalent in the black community. Like anything black people touch, black veganism is improving every year. There is a fairly new plant-based movement that can be economical. A plant-based diet can be defined as 90 percent of food intake by way of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, while 10 percent or less comes from animal based products. Going plant-based may be financially difficult at first, but once you factor in all the meat based products you are not buying it ends up being comparable to a typical diet.Historically, black people have overcame incredible odds. Generation after generation, our people have created the ability to survive and the health movement will be no different. With the growing number of black-owned vegan restaurants, health food stores, farms and pharmacies, there is no telling how far we will go. Whether you become fully vegan, plant-based or just substitute the fried chicken for grilled, understand that you are taking one step in the right direction.