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Are Cultural Food Habits Good or Bad?

June 25, 2009

fried chickenAfrican-Americans tend to follow traditional food habits, which are not always the healthiest habits. For example, I am an African-American who was raised to believe ham hocks, smoked neck bones, fat back and bacon, to name a few, must be used to season most leafy vegetables. I was also led to believe okra should be added to all beans.

Can you remember being excited about visiting grandma? For me, I couldn’t wait for Sundays to eat grandma’s deep fried chicken. Did I mention that I also ate fried foods throughout the weekdays, but there was something special about grandma’s fried chicken. Sunday meals just weren’t a meal without fried meats and fried vegetables. If we didn’t see the grease oozing out of the sides of the meat, we didn’t want it. Now I will admit, all of this sounds good and brings back great memories, but is it really healthy for anyone?

As time passed and my body matured, I had to ask myself what is a healthy meal? What are good eating habits? Do I pass on the cultural habits to my generation or should I stop the cultural cycle and create a change? Let’s be honest – how many African-Americans make sure the food pyramid is reflected in their meals? Yes, vegetables, fruit, meats, breads are eaten, but the way the way the food is prepared may not be the healthiest. For instance, most add too much salt to foods and use fatty buttery spreads or use homemade fig, pear or strawberry spreads that are filled with lots of sugar on biscuits or other homemade breads .

Research shows cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, strokes and hypertension are found more often in African-Americans compared to other races.  Most of the illnesses are associated with an unhealthful diet and this is why the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services continues to encourage individuals to improve their diet and overall health by increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and daily exercises.
To learn more about our health initiative, visit

photo from flickr

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