Soul Food and Hypertension

*straight from our Director's of Operations desk*

   I'm a southerner. I was bred on collard greens, pig's feet, and cornbread...also known as soul food. My grandmother would whip up fried chicken, dressing,  fried green tomatoes, you name it. Delicious, yet absolutely laden with fats, salts, sugar, and oil that are all a recipe for damaging arteries and elevating blood pressure. 

      A study, by researchers at Duke University, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, noted that prior to beginning the DASH diet, many of 144 overweight subjects preferred less healthy food regardless of ethnic background. However, once the  subjects began the DASH diet, African Americans, noted preference for traditional soul food as the reason why they did not follow all of the dietary restrictions. Why is it this so difficult? 

    Recipes and stories passed through the generations, (some passed from slaves) are what make up most of the African American soul food pantry.  We have become so accustomed to flavorful seasonings, that the mere thought of not using salt is like screaming a curse word at your grandmother. I often find that when I educate patients on using less salt, grease, or butter they refute with, "No one wants to eat food with no seasoning." My response, "Well, great! Maybe you'll eat less of it!"  It seems to be a slap, in the face, to tradition and our ancestors to avoid soul food. It's what our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were bred on. However, they didn't have the resources,  education, and tools we have available, now. The DASH diet recommends that patients, with hypertension, completely get rid of certain foods. The goal is to decrease the amount of salt, fat, and high sugar content, thus decreasing blood pressure. Substitute baked chicken for fried. Use olive oil instead of grease or butter. Use fresh seasonings instead of salt. 

     Eating soul food comes with a price. The sodium, sugar, and fat in traditional dishes are also the catalysts for diseases. Many African American elders do not enjoy their golden years because of ailments caused by poor eating.  According to the U.S. Administration on Community Living, which includes the Administration on Aging, some of the most frequently occurring conditions among African Americans age 65 or older are: hypertension (85 percent); all types of heart disease (27 percent);  and diagnosed diabetes. (39 percent) Black patients are from four to 20 times more likely to end on dialysis, due to kidney failure, than a white patient with high blood pressure. 

   It's understandable that Grandma made that savory Sunday dinner with sweat and love. However, its conventional ingredients, will cause you to have a more difficult time to getting your blood pressure under control. Studies have shown that the DASH diet works. It helps to lower blood pressure. With the proper diet, exercise, and medication regimen we can take control of our blood pressure and health.


Let's take care of each other,

-Portia, Director of Operations 


  • Thanks for your feedback. It’s important to watch our diet and teach others the importance of it.

    Your Nurse Connection
  • This article is a great example of the importance of understanding the patient’s cultural context, especially regarding food. Since nutrition plays such an important role in health, understanding what foods are important to the patient is a big start in helping patients to make changes for the better.

  • This is an excellent article. It has been my experience that you can change your taste preferences over time. As you get used to a new way of eating, your cravings and likes will change as well. ~Nurse Born Products

    Nurse Born Products

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