Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, sweet tea and other comfort foods may bring you back home, but making meals like this a routine can hurt your health in the long run.
An October 2018 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that leaning on the Southern-style diet - and the resulting high blood pressure and heart disease - was one of the key reasons for the difference in the incidence of high blood pressure in participating adults. Another study, published in January in The BMJ, linked eating at least one serving of fried food per day with an 8% higher chance of dying early.
Because the Southern diet features fried foods, processed meats, egg dishes, sugar-sweetened beverages and added fats, it is high in saturated fat, salt and added sugar, all contributors to high blood pressure. But that’s just the beginning of the health woes. This diet also has been linked to increased risk of stroke, heart disease, end-stage renal disease, chronic kidney disease, sepsis, cancer mortality and cognitive decline.
You don't have to toss your grandma's recipes, however, or skip those family get-togethers. Here are a few ideas for transforming traditional Southern dishes into healthier versions of your favorites.
Enjoying high-fat recipes during the week.
Save your family favorites for special occasions like birthdays or holidays.
Using solid fats like lard.
Use heart-healthy oils such as canola, olive or peanut oil.
Using white rice in dishes.
Substitute brown rice.
Using full-fat cheeses and milks.
Use sharp, reduced-fat cheese and reduced-fat or skim milk or buttermilk.
Substitute half the mayonnaise with plain, non-fat Greek yogurt.
Roast meats and vegetables in the oven.
Topping sweet potatoes with marshmallows or brown sugar.
Roast sweet potatoes with cinnamon, vanilla and a little maple syrup or brown sugar.
Cooking greens with smoked ham hocks.
Slow-cook greens in vegetable broth with a drizzle of canola or peanut oil.
Using ham, bacon or salt pork for that smoky flavor.
Substitute smoked paprika or a sprinkle of smoked salt.
Smothering your main dish in gravy.
Marinate with fresh herbs and bake or grill.
Check out heart-healthy adaptations of Soul Food recipes from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.