Fried chicken, ribs, chitterlings, collard greens, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, these are common staples of what most like to call “soul food”. You can find these foods showing up at many Sunday dinners, barbeques, weddings and church functions. The African-American community especially takes pride in providing some of the best soul food cooking around. The problem is that most of this food that people call good for the soul, is not so good for the physical body. Heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes disproportionately affect those in the African-American community. Of course, African-Americans are not the only race of people that partakes in “soul food”, but the price that we pay according to statistics seems to be far greater than other races.
On Medicinenet.com, Daniel DeNoon uncovers these startling statistics in the article, “Why 7 Diseases Strike Blacks Most”:
- Diabetes is 60% more common in black Americans than in white Americans. Blacks are up to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a limb amputation and up to 5.6 times more likely to suffer kidney disease than other people with diabetes.
- Strokes kill 4 times more 35- to 54-year-old black Americans than white Americans. Blacks have nearly twice the first-time stroke risk of whites.
- Blacks develop high blood pressure earlier in life — and with much higher blood pressure levels — than whites. Nearly 42% of black men and more than 45% of black women aged 20 and older have high blood pressure.
- Cancer treatment is equally successful for all races. Yet black men have a 40% higher cancer death rate than white men. African-American women have a 20% higher cancer death rate than white women.
Additionally, according to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the United States. However, African-Americans have the highest death rate percentage at 25.8.
I’m quite sure this is not the first time you have read alarming statistics about the health of African-Americans, however it is now important to examine alternative lifestyle choices to turn these numbers around in our favor. Through my own extensive research, I learned that the cause of many diseases is linked directly to what we eat. According to research done on vegan.org, consuming animal fats and proteins has been widely linked to heart disease, colon and lung cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, obesity, and many other debilitating conditions. The milk from cows has ideal amounts of protein and fat for young calves, but too much for humans. Eggs are higher in cholesterol than any other food. The American Dietetic Association reported that vegetarian/vegan diets are associated with reduced risks for these conditions. So, based on the health statistics of African-Americans and the benefits of a plant-based diet, it seems only natural to think twice before frying up some bacon!
I went vegetarian in 2001 and became a full-fledged vegan in 2006. The major difference between the two is that a vegan diet eliminates the consumption of all animal products. Many vegetarians still consume fish, eggs or dairy. Most people believe if they stop consuming animal products, they will be relegated to a boring eating lifestyle. There are so many resources, websites and cookbooks now available for vegan eating, that it would be impossible to get bored! I thoroughly enjoy what I eat and as an added bonus, know I am being kind to my body.
Many are also concerned they will not get all the vitamins and nutrients they need on a vegan diet and this is also a myth. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans provide all of the protein and nutrients your body needs. It’s all about education, planning and experimentation. I feel it’s time that African-Americans step outside of the box and take control of our health and in turn educate others on making healthy lifestyle choices. I realize that going vegan is a bit extreme for most, but I hope to be an example to show people that it is attainable and beneficial on many levels. Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans are foods that are best for your body and in turn make them good for your soul!
Christa R. Shelton currently resides in Atlanta, Ga and blogs daily on veganism. You can check out her blog at www.vegginoutwithchrista.blogspot.com for more information on veganism and health.