Why we need a Soul Food Makeover

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(Last Updated On: April 29, 2014)

Interview by Cynthia Nickerson, EM Health & Wellness Contributor, co-owner of Positive Image Productions, Inc.

It’s seriously time to change our relationship with food. The foods we love are simply not loving us back. And you know what usually happens when love is not returned? It can be a recipe for disaster.

In fact, the recipes we’ve been in love with for too long, are causing us disastrous health problems. African Americans are at the top of most chronic disease lists, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity. And much of it stems from the foods that we choose to put in our bodies.

Cynthia Nickerson’s media production company, Positive Image Productions, Inc. is working with the NAACP Houston Branch and local chefs and nutritionists to present a series of interactive events called Soul Food Makeover where people can come and learn how to convert traditional soul food dishes into healthier choices. The first Soul Food Makeover will be held on MLK Day.

In this week’s Wellnicity Interview, Health Reporter Cynthia Nickerson talks with Certified Nutritionist Crystal Hadnott about doing a “Soul Food Makeover.”cyn headshot2

Cynthia Nickerson: A lot of us are making small changes in the way we eat, why is that not enough?

Crystal Hadnott:  Because even if you have a hamburger, hot dog, fries or soda just on the weekends or even if you do eat vegetables like green beans or collard greens, too many of us are overcooking them and still overeating and putting very bad ingredients in our bodies. I used to tell people this food is killing us slowly but now, it’s killing us fast. I really think African Americans will become an extinct population very soon with the way we are eating and what we are eating.

Cynthia Nickerson: Wow, that is frightening! What are you seeing specifically that leads you to that prediction?

Crystal Hadnott: Well, think about it. This is the first time in the history of human beings that a lot of kids will not outlive their parents, so that is the scary part because now you have severely large number of obese kids who have certain diseases that normally adults over 50 have, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, these things are happening to kids not even in high school yet! And when I say obesity, they have well over 50% body fat as a child!

Cynthia Nickerson: Speaking of fat, explain to us how it causes damage. We know we don’t need fat but tell us in detail what it does that is so bad for us.

Crystal Hadnott: Well, we do need some fat. Fat helps to store extra calories so the body can release those calories when we are hungry and fat also helps to control metabolism. But since the body already makes cholesterol and most of us have plenty of fat stores already, for good health, we need to limit our calories from fat to about 30% a day.  Lets say you need about 2,000 calories a day. One gram of fat has 9 calories so your fat limit daily is 65 grams. So a typical fast food meal of a cheeseburger, fries and a shake contains an average of about 1700 calories and maybe 80 grams of fat. What if you have ribs or pork chops for dinner? Even if you eat a healthy salad later that day, are you going to exercise that excess fat off on a Saturday or Sunday? See how easy it is for the fat to add up, even if we eat fatty foods in moderation.

And when the excess fat just sits around your body, it eventually causes plaque build up in the arteries causing heart diseases, it can disrupt our bodies production of insulin causing diabetes, it can lead to obesity, and the list of negative effects from fat goes on.

Cynthia Nickerson: I know that salt is a problem as well.

Crystal Hadnott: Yes it is. Sodium is a mineral that our bodies do need, but only about half a teaspoon a day. But many of us are eating cupfuls of sodium every day! Not only from the obvious such as chips or things that taste salty. Sodium is in foods that we are not even aware, such as the sodium used to preserve raw chicken, or  sodium in bread.

If you eat what you think is a healthy chicken sandwich, you are probably consuming too much sodium, which causes high blood pressure. African Americans top the list of populations suffering from high blood pressure. Sodium and fat are crippling and killing us. We’ve got to make some big changes.

Cynthia Nickerson: So tell us about doing a Soul Food Makeover?

Crystal Hadnott: They say its food for our soul, well its also fuel for our bodies but just like a car runs sluggish if it doesn’t get the proper fuel over the long term? Well over time, too much fat, salt and sugar in your body plays a role in all those aches, pains and chronic disease that are happening to us at record rates. Our bodies are running, but not running well. We’ve got to make some alternatives to the way we cook and eat.

Cynthia Nickerson: It seems so overwhelming, how do we even start?

Crystal Hadnott: I started making changes 15 years ago and I am still learning something new every week so believe me, it takes time. But I can tell you, if you think about eating fresh as much as possible.

  • Buy fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh herbs to season your food, fresh lean meats and whole grains, that is the basis of your meal building right there.
  • Cook at home more often. The time you take sitting to watch Scandal every week or whatever your favorite TV shows are, multitask while you are in front of the television.
  • Jump on Google and look up healthy recipes for the week, create a shopping list and a meal plan.
  • Remember to purchase healthy snacks such as dried fruit and unsalted nuts so you can have something healthy when the urge to snack hits you.

It will take time and effort, but you know the saying, “nothing good ever comes easy or without hard work.”

Cynthia Nickerson: Thank you Crystal.

Crystal Hadnott is part of a new health initiative called Soul Food Makeover. Cynthia Nickerson’s health communications company, Positive Image Video and Multi-Media Productions, Inc. is working with the NAACP Houston Branch and local chefs and nutritionists to present a series of interactive events called Soul Food Makeover where people can come and learn how to convert traditional soul food dishes into healthier choices. The first Soul Food Makeover will be held on MLK Day.

About Cynthia Nickerson

Cynthia Nickerson is an award winning  anchor/reporter who has worked for TV stations in Baton Rouge, West Palm Beach, Florida and Norfolk, Virginia. She has a degree in broadcast journalism from USC and is co-owner of Positive Image, a Houston-based video and multi-media production company that produces health education media projects and outreach programs and fulfills its non profit mission of educational programming to diverse communities. She also covers  health/wellness issues on Wellnicity Radio show, which airs Monday through Friday on mjwjtalkradio.com from 9-11 CST. For more information, contact her via  cnickerson@mjwjtalkradio.com or visit http://positiveimage-tv.com/.

January 20th, at First Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 4420 Lyons Ave, Houston, 77020. The Soul Food Makeover presentation starts at noon and the first 20 participants will receive free fresh vegetable baskets. For additional information, call 713-385-5038.