June is National Soul Food Month

June 7, 2022

During the migration of African Americans from the South in the 20th century, so-called “Southern food” came to be enjoyed across America. It often goes by the name “Soul Food.” Not only is the cuisine delicious, but it carries strong feelings among the Black community, igniting togetherness and wellbeing as families and friends come together to enjoy a meal. June is National Soul Food Month, a time to celebrate the cultural and traditional aspects of it. With that in mind, here’s a brief overview of the cuisine for those who want to know more about it.

What is Soul Food?

Soul food is simple, but packed with flavor, as you can see with traditional recipes for beans and rice, smothered pork chops, gumbo, fried chicken and ham hocks. Accompanying these delightful main dishes are a range of side dishes that include collard greens, yams, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese and cornbread. Soul food meals are often finished with sweet potato pie or peach cobbler.

Is it Healthy?

While it’s certainly important to pay attention to the nutritional aspects of the food you eat, there’s also something important about preserving the cultural aspects of your meals. Many of the staples of Southern cuisine are abundant in vitamins and minerals, while others may not be quite so healthy. This can be said of virtually all cuisines. Soul food, specifically, is often heavy on fried foods. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a healthy choice. Opting for traditional soul food dishes can be a nutritious and delicious choice.

Preserving the Culture of Soul Food

Making healthy swaps is a great choice when you’re creating a diet that lowers the risk of disease and helps you control your weight. However, you don’t want to negate the cultural aspects of traditional Southern food. After all, that heritage is just as important for nourishing the body and soul as are the vitamins and minerals that the food contains.

One easy way to enjoy your favorites is to focus on the plant-based dishes. Enjoy your favorite meats, but fill half your plate with leafy greens, watermelon, black-eyed peas and okra. Add tomatoes, sweet potatoes and turnips to your plate as well. If you love macaroni and cheese, rice and cornbread, be sure you’re making them with whole grain options, rather than refined ones. Choose 100% whole wheat pasta, brown rice and 100% whole grain cornmeal. Soul food is often high in salt, so consider finding ways to cut back, such as using alternative seasonings and spices, such as black pepper, cayenne, garlic powder and onion powder. Try roasting or grilling meats instead of frying them and use olive oil or avocado oil rather than corn or canola oil. When dessert hits the table, have a small portion so you can enjoy a favorite without overdoing it.

Soul food is more than just food. It’s tradition, culture, heritage, race and health all rolled into a delicious package. Staying healthy doesn’t mean abandoning everything that the cuisine means to you. Enjoying it in a healthy way allows you to preserve the culture and traditions, while also giving you the chance to take care of your body.

Posted in CHM