By Amanda Hill

Last week, I heard about a study that found that “Southern food” is unhealthy. By Southern food, the University of Alabama at Birmingham study meant fried foods, burgers, processed meats and sugary drinks (specifically sweet tea). The study noted an increased stroke risk with fried foods and a higher risk of diabetes with sweetened drinks.

Forgive me, but why is this “groundbreaking” science? It’s not new news that fried food and/or meals high in salt and sugar content cause an increased risk of health problems. The research reports that people who eat “Southern-style” meals six or more times a week have a 41 percent higher stroke risk than those who ate those meals just once a month.

In contrast, people who ate a diet heavy in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and fish were 29 percent less likely to suffer a stroke.

Again, I ask… What about this is groundbreaking?

As a dutiful and proud Southerner, my real concern is the Southern food stereotype that seems to be presented—and then touted in the media. Sure, we Southerners like fried chicken and sweet tea, every so often. But, I don’t know many who eat it six times a week. Southern food has gotten a bad rap.

What about the Southern food I know? At our house, we like beef—lean beef, specifically—as well as lots of fruits and vegetables. Most of our meals are accompanied by rice, beans, potatoes, green beans, corn or broccoli. There’s very little butter involved, although a tablespoon or two gives dishes good flavor and the added benefits of healthy fat.

Healthy eating is important to us, like it is to many Southerners. Sure, we love sweet tea every now and then, but most of the time our glasses are filled with cold water or lowfat milk.

Fellow Southerners, what do you think? Is the Southern food stereotype correct? Do most of our meals include fried chicken, French fries and a big glass of sweet tea? If not, what’s most likely to be on your table?