As Black History Month 2023 draws to an end, African Americans who attended family dinners or joined friends for a soul food repass, undoubtedly licked their lips and pushed themselves away from the table after enjoying long-time favorites: smothered chicken, fried porkchops, macaroni and cheese, greens with chunks of meat, candied yams and cobbler.
And while social interactions for most Black families are centered around food, research shows that soul food, because of the excessive amounts of fat and salt, as well as the emphasis of meat instead of vegetables, often leads to obesity and heart disease.
Nonetheless, efforts to persuade Blacks to eat other types of healthier food tend to be met with resistance – even regarded as an attempt to eradicate Black culture.
But a closer look at the diet of African Americans more common among slaves and early settlers centuries ago – before Blacks became acclimated to the dominant Western culture – shows they ate off the land, consuming great quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s before subsequent generations, following the habits of their enslavers, became reliant upon processed and refined foods.
For Nathaniel Jordan, 37, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a former member of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (2008-2015), changing both his diet and lifestyle became essential after he saw his body fat increase to 30 percent, gained over 100 pounds from his former, svelte 160 pounds and developed high blood pressure.
“It terrified me, especially after my father suffered a series of strokes while his three brothers and my grandparents experienced rapidly declining health – even death – after battling strokes, heart attacks and developing diabetes,” Jordan said. “I knew I would die soon if I didn’t make a change.”
In a literal fight for his life, Jordan, known today as the “Minister of Wellness,” embarked upon a journey that involved a thorough study of dietary practices as prescribed in the Bible, a more rigorous exercise plan and a greater commitment to prayer and meditation. He said he was surprised with what he discovered.
“Despite my father being a highly regarded pastor and my own relationship to God, I learned that most of what we had learned about nutrition, particularly in church, wasn’t true,” said Jordan who embraced the call to become a health preacher, health coach and wellness speaker.
“I witnessed the miraculous healing power of consuming a nutrient-dense, plant-rich diet, without turning to prescription medications as my cardiologist had suggested. Eating the medicine – the fruits and vegetables of God – cured my frequent headaches and aching joints. And the more I learned, the more I wanted to share my experience and expertise with the world. It disturbs me how the masses are not being adequately taught about the power of food to either destroy or heal our bodies.”
Jordan said his mission is to help others achieve and maintain permanent health but he reminds those willing to listen, that it requires discipline, focus and resolve. He’s particularly committed to sharing his messages with African Americans who have higher incidences of diabetes, hypertension, cancer and heart disease when compared to whites.
A study published in The Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that 35 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S may be attributed to dietary factors and that fewer than one quarter of adults consume the recommended five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables – minorities consume even less than that.
Jordan said education is key to helping African Americans eat a healthier diet. He believes that if churches and other organizations sponsor seminars to encourage healthier eating habits, it would help the community to make healthier choices. It would also help to teach more adults about their African ancestors and how they ate, since they ate far differently than African Americans do today.
“If we want to reverse the impact of those diseases that are increasingly impacting and killing Blacks, we have to return to the ancient way of eating and living,” said Jordan, whose daily, fruit-based meals include grapes with seeds, several oranges, berries, especially strawberries and a variety of melons.
He also avoids “white stuff,” like flour, sugar and salt and exercises at least an hour a day during which he focuses on increasing his heart rate to strengthen the body’s essential muscle – the heart.
Jordan will serve as the keynote speaker on Saturday, March 18, at Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast Washington, D.C. for a free community health fair and seminar. The event, hosted by Rock Newman and sponsored by media partner, WHUR, 96.3, will also be streamed on his website, www.theministerofwellness.com and available for viewing at a nominal fee.
“As I travel across the country, I continue to share my message – a critical one – for those who want to live healthier and longer lives,” he said. “COVID has shown us how important it is to have a strong immune system. Time is running out for America.”