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Okra is the principal ingredient in gumbo, a Creole stew, and is believed to have spiritual and healthful properties.

Many of these foods found their way from the south to the north via the Mississippi River.

By 1996, 28 percent of this population was reported to have a poor-quality diet, compared to 16 percent of whites.

A poor quality diet often can be attributed to greater access to packaged, processed, and fast foods; the common practice of using fats in cooking; and the high cost of fresh produce and lean meat.

Traditional African-American food—sometimes referred to as “soul food”—is diverse and flavorful with origins in Africa, the West Indies, and American southern states.

The idea of what soul food is differs greatly among African Americans.

Older African Americans may be suspicious of clinicians, believing their health is personal and up to God’s will.

Because they may be reluctant to share personal or family issues, building a trusting relationship is key.

Although many African Americans eat foods such as greens, beans, and rice, which are rich in nutrients, economic issues and deep-rooted dietary habits create challenges for changing behaviors and lowering disease risk in this population.Before the advent of health ministries, African American churches had mission volunteers who attended services and administered to parishioners.African Americans are becoming increasingly health conscious, seeking health screenings and treatments, although health literacy in this population tends to vary by generation.Institutionalization of elders has historically been avoided, with sons and daughters taking on the family caretaker role.Many African Americans like hearty meals that may include meat, fish, greens, rice, grits, white and sweet potatoes, corn, turnips, eggplant, peanuts, and homemade desserts.The family may be matriarchal, although father or mother may take on the decision-making role.

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