Soul Food Stymies Low-Salt Efforts

A new study shows how stubborn cultural preferences can be when it comes to healthy eating. 

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ABC News

It's not breaking news that traditionally prepared soul food isn't a part of any low-salt, low-fat or low-anything diet. But writing at ABC, Dr. Khaalisha Ajala explains that she hears from one too many African-American patients with high blood pressure at her weekly clinic that they just can't eat food that has "no taste."

So a new study acknowledging cultural influences on food preferences, she says, really hits home. In short, it says that those preferences can be extremely difficult to shake, even when a patient's life is at risk. From ABC News:

Researchers at Duke University examined the factors that would affect a person's choice to follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet. The DASH diet recommends that patients with hypertension completely cut certain foods out of their diet with a goal of decreasing the amount of salt, fat and high sugar content, thus decreasing blood pressure.

The study, which is published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, noted that prior to beginning the diet, many of 144 overweight subjects preferred less healthy food regardless of ethnic background. However, once the study subjects began the DASH diet, African Americans in the program, although highly motivated, noted preference for traditional soul food as the reason why they did not follow all of the dietary restrictions.

My patients, who are largely an African-American population, battle high blood pressure at staggering numbers. Even my family members who battle high blood pressure could lower their blood pressure if they just changed their diet. Why is it so hard?

The study's researchers said the root of this problem may be that cultural influences on food preference are difficult to shake.

"Families will now need to pass down new recipes to the next generation," said lead study author James A. Blumenthal, professor of behavioral medicine in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center.

Read more at ABC News.

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