Southern Diet: Good to Eat But Bad for Your Heart

What a feast! Fried chicken (including gizzards and livers), collard greens cooked with ham, mac-and-cheese and for a beverage – sweet tea. This meal may be delicious. But over the long-term it is not good for you, according to a recent study.

“The so-called Southern-style diet includes lots of fried foods, organs and processed meats, bread, dairy and beverages sweetened with sugar,” explains McLeod Cardiologist Dr. Thomas Stoughton. “As a cardiologist, it’s sad to see patients who would otherwise be healthy, except for the food they love to eat.”

The Southern Diet – a favorite of many and lauded internationally — ranks high in trans fats, nitrates, salt and sugar. It’s origins go back to days when a group of people had to “make do” with whatever was available to them. A recent study of nearly 17,000 people over age 45, that had not suffered heart disease, were asked to track what they ate. Results showed that Black Americans favored this diet. The study’s authors concluded that this may be one major reason for the difference in high blood pressure and related illnesses between White and Black Americans.

The Southern-style diet was not the only problematic eating pattern the researchers found. There’s the “Convenience Diet” loaded with take-out, pizza, pasta, and Mexican or Chinese food. The “Alcohol/Salads” diet includes good things like green leafy vegetables and tomatoes mixed with excessive use of salad dressing and beer, wine or liquor for beverages. Finally the “Sweets Diet” is self-explanatory but is best symbolized by breakfast cereals with added sugar.

The negative effects on your blood pressure and heart of all these diets can be limited by moderating your consumption of elements from Southern, Convenience and Alcohol diets and adding elements from the Plant-based Diet. These foods include fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, beans and yogurt.

Changing diets — especially when it tastes good – poses a challenge. Remember that small, gradual changes over time deliver big changes and may keep you off high blood pressure medication. If you’re suffering shortness of breathe, headaches, chest pain, visual changes or dizziness, see your physician or a cardiologist.

Find a Cardiologist near you.

Sources include: McLeod Health, Journal of the American Medical Association, Forbes, US News & World Report