Health, Heart and Soul

It’s no secret that if you were brought up on soul food, it’s hard to make the switch to bland selections. After all, soul food is exactly that — good for the soul. But what about your heart? Soul food dishes usually contain lots of fat, a high caloric and sodium content. These factors can be hard on your heart, but there are ways to create delicious alternatives without diminishing the taste of your food.

You can still enjoy the richness of soul food in healthier versions. All it takes is a little planning to start protecting your heart, health and soul.

Here are a couple of ideas:

Go fresh

Fresh vegetables are very good for you and keep the processed versions out of your system. Grow a garden or try the fresh market and roadside vegetable stands. Using fresh herbs will give you great flavor without using salt. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference it will make.

Switch up your meat

Every good soul food cook knows that greens and other vegetables don’t taste the same without a little meat for flavoring. Use a leaner version to keep the fat out of the dish. You can also substitute meat with stock flavoring to add that extra zing to your dish. A little experimentation can really go a long way.


Grill chicken

Use the oven or grill it

Most of the time, soul food involves frying in some way. You can achieve the same flavors and results when you bake and oven fry your items instead. This is healthier than frying in oil. Grilling is a great subsitute as well.

Greens, greens and more greens

Greens are a main staple in soul food cooking. The richness of collard greens, turnip greens and cabbage can’t be denied. Start incorporating greens into dishes like casseroles and use broth instead of meat for flavoring. Steaming your greens is also a healthy alternative that tastes just as good.


Sweet potatoes

Use sweet potatoes in a variety of ways

Everyone loves candied yams, but you can create this dish without the syrup and so much sugar. You can also mash or roast them with great results.

Use natural beans


Green beans

The natural versions are always healthier. One of the keys to getting the most flavor out of natural beans is to soak them overnight. This will help them cook better, while providing all the nutrients you need. Instead of using salt pork or ham, use a small amount of bacon or even broth for a good substitute.

Seek out recipes that can show you how to use the foods you love but in healthier ways. Gumbos, casseroles with grits, and even lighter versions of rice like Jasmine and Basmati can make a huge difference. It’s your heart and your health — protect them while preserving your soul. Food, that is.

Your “blackness” starts with YOU

In the constantly changing world, the definition of what being black personifies is continuously evolving. Black used to be associated with music, sports, fashion, slang and how it affected society as a whole, but with so many cultures embracing what was once sacred for a “black” society, the notion of what black really means is questionable.

While there is much to be said about the progress black people have made, it should not necessarily be associated with being black. Being black does have a sense of responsibility — to stand up for your rights and band together for injustice. Being black means taking pride in who you are and knowing your history — where you’ve come from and how far you plan to go. Being black means celebrating your ancestry and your beauty, not relying on enhancements to fit in.

The question remains, how black is black enough? You should know and understand that being black is not the color of your skin, but the state of your mind. Are you intelligent enough to think for yourself? Walk for yourself? Talk for yourself? Care about the progress of your children? Progress and equality as a whole? Then you’re black enough.

All too frequently black people have become so close-minded that they cannot accept another black person dating outside of the race, or have issues with black people who are Republicans. It’s much more than that. If you know and recognize who you are, understanding that you will be treated differently in certain instances, you are black enough. If you are thoughtful in your choices, definitive in your stance and informed about your decisions, you are black enough.

Deciding to immerse yourself into society doesn’t diminish your blackness, because you are reminded of it at the most inopportune times. What you do with that realization contributes to how you handle being black and move forward. When you don’t stand for what’s right, even though it is inadvertently affecting you, then you should start questioning your “blackness.”

Black enough does not mean staying all natural, or listening only to black music, or only supporting black businesses. Being black enough means making sure your history and culture becomes just as important as the next, being taught in schools. Being black enough means making sure your vote counts, your dollar spent is just as powerful and your business has as much of a fighting chance as any other. Being black enough means fighting against profiling and ensuring our children have opportunities. Being black enough means taking corruption to task and championing when we are in a position of power to make a change.

Being black enough is embracing your identity to collectively share the black experience, negating the stereotypes. Being black is… a rich world of blackness subject to personal definition. Embrace it.