As we enter Soul Food Season with the holidays coming up, there’s always hella jokes when black people talk about food and lifestyles that people choose in terms of eating. The increasing number of people converting to vegan or vegetarian diets, those conscious cousins that don’t eat swine, and people really taking a closer look at the food industry of today has sparked a lot of debate of how we should live.
The “What the Health” documentary on Netflix scared the shit out of a lot of people for a month straight and diet soon became a big topic of discussion. I think its also safe to say that there are some intense vegans and vegetarians who look down on those who enjoy a good burger or those that still eat “slave food” like chitterlings. As disgusting as I find chitterlings personally- “we was just working with the scraps we was given” *Tupac voice* - The dialogue about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle should change up. We have to eat to live, not for labels.
First, we must understand that eating organic foods is not always an option for everyone. Food deserts are real and organic foods can be pricey. Lack of access to grocery stores with healthy options is called a ‘food desert’. The nearest grocery store serving fresh produce can be miles away from many, dependent on where that person lives. Even the quality of the products in the stores in urban areas vs more affluent places are very different. For example, the Kroger on the west side of Indianapolis, Indiana verses the Kroger, Whole foods, or Fresh Thyme options in northern Indianapolis are entirely different spaces for customers. This situation is the same in Chicago and many other cities in areas where people of a lower socioeconomic status reside.
Hot Cheetos, hot crunchy curls, .50 cent juices, and penny candy were a staple of my childhood. It was crazy how much of a snack variety 2 dollars could get you in the 90’s. The hood gas station snacks are different from gas station snacks in any other area, I got time and statistics to argue. There is far more variety of healthy, but tasty snacks and foods in more affluent areas that aren't available to those that live in urban areas. There’s also the belief that to eat healthy you must sacrifice good taste. It is by design that access to healthy food choices is not the same across communities with different socioeconomic status. A healthy diet correlates to a healthy body and mind. Access to healthy foods is also directly correlated to quality of life and life expectancy.
Don’t feel compelled to change your entire diet at once or give up things that you enjoy entirely. I started by completely giving up beef, then pork, to then gradually replacing one meal a day with a vegan or vegetarian option. Beginning with small adjustments can aid your journey of leading a healthier lifestyle. And even if you never want to give up meat completely, making a couple more healthy food choices a week is still progress toward better health. A lot of the health conditions that are prevalent in African- American communities, such as high blood pressure, are preventable or can be maintained through a change in diet.
Making a change for a healthier diet can increase your energy levels, help with depression, help maintain and cure diseases, alleviate menstrual cycle problems, and just overall leave you with a healthier mind and body. We really do “eat to live.” What we put in our bodies on the day to day affects more than just our weight. Changing your diet can heal you.
However, being a pescatarian, vegetarian, or vegan isn’t for everybody! A healthy life is less about labels and more about doing what’s best for YOUR body and life style. Eating healthy has many positives that all people can benefit from, but its important not to force your specific lifestyle on other people. What I will say, is that your body will find it very beneficial to cut one processed meal a day and substitute it with some cleaner eating options.
Whether thats cutting back on certain meat choices, sugars, or fast food, we have to become conscious about what we feed ourselves. Eating healthier does take discipline but it can be done. What you consume directly effects your body, mind, and soul. It is important to be mindful of the foods we eat in the minority community in every way from how our foods are produced to accessibility of the foods in our communities.
Let everything you eat be Soul Food. Let’s evolve in the ways we think of eating!