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Giving up southern delights

Kolasa, Kathy

Kathy Kolasa


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Q: My New Year’s resolution is to eat healthy more often this year. Do I really have to give up all my southern delights? FR, Greenville

A: If you regularly read this column you know I try to help readers assess the risks and benefits of a food or beverage or an eating pattern on health, leaving it up to the readers to choose what fits in their way of life. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association earlier this year singled out the “Southern Diet” as a “deadly diet for people with heart disease.”

The experts in these organizations tell us there is enough evidence to limit or avoid eating the “Southern Diet.” We’ve been in Greenville for 35 years, but I still can remember my husband, Pat, saying shortly after we arrived, “I’ve eaten more grease in the last month than in my whole life.”

Daniellemaree Dwyer, an ECU dietetic student, wants to explain to you why the Southern Diet is considered deadly. Here is what Daniellemaree wants you to know:

The southern diet is rich in added fats, oils, sugars and routine intake of fried foods, eggs, processed meats and sugar-sweetened drinks. When I envision a traditional southern dinner, I think of a fried chicken drumstick served next to russet baked potatoes topped with butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon; collard greens with bacon or other fat meat; and a glass of sugar sweetened sweet tea.

Unfortunately, a daily dose of this diet can be very detrimental to your health. Much of the fried chicken drumstick’s calorie content comes mostly from the 4.3 grams of saturated fat — the fat that raises your bad cholesterol. The dairy products used to top the baked potato include sour cream and cheddar cheese — also sources of saturated fat, cholesterol and salt. Bacon, a processed meat, has 180 mg of sodium per slice or 8 percent of your daily limit of sodium. Finally, depending on how its brewed, sweet tea often has 38 grams or 9.5 teaspoons of added sugar giving you 230 empty calories.

The American Heart Association says that people who consume the southern diet regularly are 50 percent more likely to suffer an acute coronary heart disease event with a 50 percent higher chance of it resulting in death. If that doesn’t impress you, the experts say that eating the southern diet leads to a 30 percent increase chance of stroke, a higher occurrence of hypertension or high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers report that adults who consume a southern diet are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and larger waist size and less likely to be physically active. A high BMI partnered with a large waist size equals obesity. It’s not just about fat. It surprises some people to learn that excessive added sugar consumption also is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases – those related to the heart.

Excessive added sugar intake is also linked to stroke and atherogenesis, which is the formation of plaque in the artery walls and the main symptom of coronary heart disease. The two main added sugars in the southern diet are the granular sweetener sucrose or sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, sweet tea and fruit drinks make up half of all added sugar intake.

Do you have to give up these southern delights? You choose but you may get the “biggest bang for your buck” by reducing how much you drink. We know that its hard to give up traditional sweet tea -- an icon of southern culinary life. But consider that the drink of tea, ice and sugar usually has up to 575 calories in a typical sweet tea glass. Why don’t you resolve to reduce the amount of sugar you use in making your tea over a several week period? You might not find it so difficult to give up tea.

Keep two kinds of oils in your cupboard — olive and canola. Make your fried food a bit healthier, use canola oil rather than lard or shortening to pan fry. Olive oil has a low smoke point and will burn easily if you aren’t careful. So, when you pan fry, fry with canola. The experts neglected to point out that southerners eat a lot of vegetables — a good thing. So keep the vegetables but toss out the seasoning, grease or fat meat. So, when dressing a salad or seasoning your greens, use olive oil. You will learn to like these new flavors and textures if you let yourself be open to trying them.

For ideas on go to the North Carolina site: medsinsteadofmeds.com Lots of tips and videos to help you with your resolution. Good luck.


Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian, nutritionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.


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