Funerals & Fried Chicken

Pieces of fried chicken in a skilletI recently heard a pastor describe the meal ritual of funerals at his church; a typical meal consisted of fried chicken and mac n cheese, washed down with beverages like fruit punch.

Listening to the pastor talk, I couldn’t help but think about how such meals would inevitably lead to the next funeral.

Our Diet Is Not Helping Us

Research now clearly demonstrates that eating certain foods substantially contributes to obesity, disease and premature death. Sadly, the diseases that kill the most African Americans (heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes) are very often preventable, simply through a proper diet and lifestyle. There are many delicious healthful recipe variations on traditional soul food (which is typically very high in saturated fats and sugar, clogging our arteries and raising our blood sugar).

So why aren’t we adopting healthier eating habits, despite all this research, despite all the statistics, and despite all the preventable deaths? Many people, including myself, feel that we need to look to church leaders, and other trusted leaders, to help lead the way to better health.

Spiritual & Social Leaders: More Than a Century of Trust

For more than one hundred years, African Americans have embraced religious, civic and social organizations, including fraternities and sororities, as sources of support and friendship. To this day, church pastors and heads of such organizations are often viewed as revered community leaders.

The decisions of these leaders very often impact the lives of their members in a multitude of ways – spiritually, emotionally, and very likely, physically.

Smoking is a great example of the positive effects that leaders can have in the community: It is well known that cigarettes are harmful to our health. They contribute to early death, just like unhealthy eating habits. It was not long ago that cigarette smoking was socially acceptable at both meetings and social events sponsored by such organizations…but not anymore. Anyone would be scorned if he or she lit up a cigarette at a church, NAACP, or fraternity meeting these days.

Why? True, this is due, in part, to the fact that smoking is illegal at most indoor venues. But, this is not the only reason – organizational leaders also chose to impart knowledge to its members about the dangers of smoking, and many members chose to accept this information and stop smoking.

So, Can Churches Also Help People Eat Better?

Spiritual and social groups, including churches, have played a critical role in providing infrastructure and impetus for many advances, from civil rights to smoking. In my opinion, the time has come to actively utilize our churches and other organizations as vehicles to impart knowledge about healthier eating habits, thereby helping to prevent further unnecessary suffering and premature death.

The first step is to serve healthier food at organizational meetings. The next step is to arrange information sessions on dietary and lifestyle changes.

A funeral meal need not beget the next funeral.

For more healthy lifestyle tips and news, visit Dr. Ed at Heal 2B Free!

To visit Dr. Ed’s blog on BDO, click here.

3 Food Ingredients To Watch Out For

glasses of lemon water with mint

( — If you are what you eat, as the saying goes, reading the ingredient list on packaged foods can give you pause. Some foods are laced with dozens of ingredients with complicated names that sound like they belong in a chemistry lab, not on your plate. Some list ingredients that belie the claims made on the front of the package.

Make shopping a breeze by running all packaged foods through this quick checklist:

1. Long lists

When you find a packaged food in the supermarket with a long list of ingredients on the label, just set it back on the shelf and look for a simpler version of the food. (We’re talking here about the “Ingredients” part of the label. “Nutrition Facts” is another part). The alarming truth is, many of those ingredients are various kinds of sugars and chemical additives, and they’re not put there for you — they’re there to benefit the company that processes the food. They “enhance” the looks, taste, or shelf life — which is all about marketing and shipping and not at all about your health.

Most additives aren’t known to be harmful (although the health effects of some are still open to question), but they aren’t about nutrition or taste as nature intended taste to be. In fact, one of their main purposes is to make up for a lack of those things. So check the list of ingredients every time. Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, says that almost always, the shorter the better.

2. Water

Water is the magic ingredient in prepared foods, and if it’s first on the list of ingredients, that’s a clue that there’s a long list of additives to follow to give that water some taste and texture. You might not be surprised to see water at the top of the list of ingredients in soups. After all, soup does take a lot of water. It’s more surprising to find it so prominent in SpaghettiOs. Many, many salad dressings contain more water than anything else, and since oil and water don’t mix, it takes a bunch of additives to hold everything together. Water is cheap, so the food industry likes it.

3. MSG

Check out the ingredient list on the labels of prepared foods — on soups, for example. Keep reading, because it’s pretty far down on a long list (although if there is no MSG, that’s usually prominently mentioned at the top). MSG (monosodium glutamate) is sometimes listed under its own name but often under other names, among them hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast, and sodium caseinate. MSG is a synthetic version of the substance umami, as it is known in Japan, which occurs naturally in some foods, including Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, and mushrooms. MSG, widely used in Asian cooking, went out of favor when it became associated with headaches and other unpleasant symptoms.

Now many Asian restaurants proudly advertise “No MSG” on their menus, but the food industry still sneaks it in as a flavor enhancer. So if you’re concerned about MSG, look for it under all of its names.