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Soul Food with a Focus on Health: Selected Resources

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Science, Technology & Business Division
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Resources in this guide focus on preserving the traditions of African American cuisine while showcasing cooking styles, techniques, and ingredients that reduce sodium, fat, calories, and cholesterol. Vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, cookbooks that address special dietary concerns, and titles that explore the history of African American and Caribbean cooking are also included, along with Internet resources and suggested Library of Congress Subject Headings for additional research. If you have any further questions about this topic, please Ask A Librarian.



47 healthy soul food recipes. Lincolnwood, IL, Publications International, c2008. 98 p.
LC Call Number: MLCS 2008/44185 FT MEADE
LC Catalog Record Number: 2008530984
In addition to recipes from the American Heart Association, this little booklet also has information on how to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Dietary exchanges and nutritional information are included.

Banks-Payne, Ruby. Ruby's low-fat soul food cookbook. Chicago, Contemporary Books, c1996. 175 p.
LC Call Number: TX715.B22 1996
LC Catalog Record Number: 96015855
Ruby’s cookbook has more than 140 recipes based on Creole and Cajun cooking, and nine chapters including one on Seasoning Blends, Dressings, Sauces, and Toppings. Nutritional information is included.

Caribbean cuisine. In American Heart Association around the world cookbook: healthy recipes with international flavor. New York, Times Books, c1996, p. 180-214.
LC Call Number: RM237.7.A437 1996
LC Catalog Record Number: 95046754
This chapter on Caribbean food includes a brief history of the evolution of Caribbean cuisine, tips on spices and seasonings, and recipes. Appendices include American Heart Association dietary guidelines, meal plans and shopping tips, and suggested menus. Nutritional information is included.

Carter, Danella. Down-home wholesome: 300 low-fat recipes from a new soul kitchen. New York, Dutton, c1995. 283 p.
Bibliography: p. 270-271.
LC Call Number: TX715.C313 1995
LC Catalog Record Number: 95019240
In addition to chapters such as Sunday Breakfast, Just Desserts, Nola: Palatable New Orleans, Gullah: Sea Island Flavor, and Oyster House, there is also a Body and Soul chapter with recipes for herbal skin and hair treatments, and a section of Suggested Menus. Nutritional information is included.

Cooking healthy across America. Food and Culinary Professionals, a dietetic practice group of American Dietetic Association; Kristine Napier, editor. Hoboken, NJ, John Wiley Sons, c2005. 640 p.
Includes bibliographical references.
LC Call Number: TX715.C78355 2005
LC Catalog Record Number: 2004014934
“Organized by regions of America and drawing on the flavors of New England, Mid-Atlantic, Floribbean, Southern, Midwest, Tex-Mex, Southwestern, Rocky Mountain, Pacific Northwest, Californian, and Hawaiian cuisines, the book includes a nutritional analysis for each recipe, menu plans and serving suggestions, tips on ingredient substitutions, and guidance on which recipes are suitable for people with medical conditions such as diabetes.” (Summary provided by the publisher).

Gaines, Fabiola, and Roniece A. Weaver. Healthy soul food cooking. Alexandria, VA, Small Steps Press, c2007.
196 p.
LC Call Number: RC662.G345 2007
LC Catalog Number: 2006034814
“Everyone is tempted by good-tasting sensations such as fried okra, apple crisp, and Hoppin’ John—all soul food favorites. But are they healthy? These 140 recipes satisfy every appetite and taste bud but are low in fat and steeped in the rich flavor soul food fanatics adore. The book includes tips for reducing calories and sodium for weight loss and blood pressure control as well as advice for preparing healthy foods. This unique cookbook includes surefire pleasers such as shrimp jambalaya, barbecue pulled pork, and fried okra.” (Summary provided by the publisher). Dietary exchanges and nutritional information are included.

Jones, Wilbert. The new soul food cookbook: healthier recipes for traditional favorites. New York, Citadel Press, 2005. 157 p.
LC Call Number: TX715.J823 2005 FT MEADE
LC Catalog Record Number: 2006274728
Wilbert Jones’ soul food cookbook has revised low carbohydrate recipes based on traditional soul food, gives suggestions on techniques for making soul food dishes healthier, and includes suggested menus. Nutritional information is included.

The Joys of healthy cooking in the Caribbean. Manuelita Zephirin and others. Kingston, Miami, Ian Randle Publishers, c2005. 262 p.
LC Call Number: TX716.A1J69 2005 OVERFLOWJ34
LC Catalog Number: 2006397701
“With The Joys of Healthy Cooking in the Caribbean, Caribbean food lovers at home and abroad will discover that preparing meals that taste as good as they are good for you is the key to good health. Patients and doctors, nutritionists and dietitians and teachers and students will find this book equally valuable as a guiding tool for good health and good nutrition.” (From the back cover). Nutritional information is included.

LaBelle, Patti, and Laura Randolph Lancaster. Patti LaBelle’s lite cuisine: over 100 dishes with to-die-for taste made with to-live-for recipes. New York, Gotham Books, c2003. 227 p.
LC Call Number: TX715.L128 2003
LC Catalog Record Number: 2002155237
“With diabetic exchanges developed and approved by the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association, Patti LaBelle's Lite Cuisine is chock-full of the kind of recipes that made her earlier cookbook a bestselling sensation. Readers will love the wide array of healthful and heavenly dishes like "Awesome Oven-Fried Chicken," "Sensational Sloppy Joes," "Company's-Coming Crab Imperial," and "Luscious Lobster Salad." Delectable desserts include everything from "Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Raisin Cookies" to "Tastes-Like-Grandma-Made-It Banana Pudding."” (Summary provided by the publisher). Nutritional information is included.

Nash, Jonell. Low-fat soul. New York, One World, 1996. 213 p.
LC Call Number: TX715.N256 1996
LC Catalog Record Number: 96019468
Low-Fat Soul brings you dozens of easy-to-make meals for every day, holiday fare, and elegant dinner parties. Its wide range of dishes cuts across regional cuisines from the Carolinas to the Texas Gulf, from the Caribbean to New Orleans, but at-a-glance seasoning suggestions let you individualize dishes to accommodate your family's preferences. Plus, Jonell Nash's easy tips help you modify your own family recipes to strip away fat while keeping the flavor--and the soul--intact.” (Summary provided by the publisher). Nutritional information is included.

Randall, Alice, and Caroline Randall Williams. Soul food love: healthy recipes inspired by one hundred years of cooking in a black family. New York, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2015. 224 p.
LC Call Number: TX715.R2136 2015
LC Catalog Record Number: 2014014423
“A mother-daughter duo reclaims and redefines soul food by mining the traditions of four generations of black women and creating 80 healthy recipes to help everyone live longer and stronger.” (From the back cover).

Shields, Donna. Caribbean light: all the flavors of the islands without all the fat. New York, Doubleday, 1998. 324 p.
LC Call Number: TX716.A1S52 1998
LC Catalog Number: 98010573
“Caribbean food is a medley of brilliant colors, bold flavors, and lush presentations. The cooking techniques combine European, African, Indian, and Chinese influences, and the result is a cuisine with a big, assertive personality.
Using selective but authentic ingredients and lighter cooking methods, Donna Shields harnesses that boldness and, without dimming the color or diminishing its assertiveness, interprets Caribbean cooking for the healthy American lifestyle.” (Summary provided by the publisher). Nutritional information is included.



Burgess, Mary Keyes. Soul to soul: a soul food vegetarian cookbook. Santa Barbara, CA, Woodbridge Press Pub. Co., c1976. 158 p.
LC Call Number: TX837.B92
LC Catalog Number: 75037440
An early example of a vegetarian soul food cookbook from the 1970s. “250 unique and original recipes to nourish and please your family–at amazingly low cost.” (From the front cover).

Burks, Justin Fox, and Amy Lawrence. The Southern vegetarian cookbook: 100 down-home recipes for the modern table. Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, 2013. 250 p.
LC Call Number: TX715.2.S68B874 2013 OVERFLOWJ34
LC Catalog Number: 2012041487
“Whether you’re a devoted plant-eater or a steadfast omnivore, The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook will help you shift vegetables from the outskirts of your plate into main course position. Eating your vegetables has never been more delicious.” (From the publisher’s website).

Cultural food practices. Diabetes Care and Education Dietetic Practice Group; Cynthia M. Goody and Lorena Drago, editors. Chicago, American Dietetic Association, c2010. 244 p. + 1 CD-ROM.
Includes bibliographical references.
LC Call Number: RC662.C85 2010
LC Catalog Number: 2009024536
“This comprehensive practical guide provides information on food practices for 15 cultures. Each chapter focuses on a particular culture, including such factors as diabetes risk factors; traditional foods, dishes and meal plans; special holiday foods; traditional health beliefs; current food practices, and more. Culturally appropriate counseling recommendations are also discussed. A list of common foods, including nutrient evaluations, is included for each culture. An emailed link to download culturally-specific client education handouts round out the book.” (From the publisher’s website).

The Family style soul food diabetes cookbook. Roniece A. Weaver and others. Alexandria, VA, American Diabetes Association, c2006. 240 p.
LC Call Number: RC662.F35 2006 FT MEADE
LC Catalog Number: 2006023448
The New Soul Food Cookbook for People with Diabetes, the first diabetes cookbook for and by African Americans, was a blockbuster. Now Gaines and Weaver are back with new friends and 150 more low-fat soul food recipes for the whole family. All the Cajun, Creole, and down-home favorites are here—and now in healthier versions, including Barbecue Grilled Catfish, Sister Mabel’s Macaroni and Cheese, Fried Green Tomatoes, and much more!” (Summary provided by the publisher). Dietary exchanges and nutritional information are included.

Guste, Roy F. Louisiana light: low-fat, low-calorie, low-cholesterol, low-salt: Cajun and Creole cookery. With the Ochsner Medical Institutions. New York, Norton, c1990. 297 p.
LC Call Number: TX715.2.L68G87 1990
LC Catalog Record Number: 89030237
Chapters include The Basics, Fish and Seafood, Chicken and Duck, and Specialties. Each recipe is accompanied by a suggested menu with nutritional information for the recipe and for the meal.

Mason, Taymer. Caribbean vegan: meat-free, egg-free, dairy-free authentic island cuisine for every occasion. Expanded 2nd ed. New York, The Experiment, 2016. 311 p.
LC Call Number: TX716.C27M37 2016 CABIN BRANCH
LC Catalog Number: 2016020831
In addition to nine chapters with titles including Seasonings and Sauces, Appetizers, Mains, and Drinks and Cocktails, Caribbean Vegan also introduces readers to Caribbean cooking with a glossary of ingredients, some basic techniques used in the Caribbean kitchen, and a list of essential equipment. Recipe measurements are in both US and metric units, and oven temperatures are in Fahrenheit and Centigrade.

Medearis, Angela Shelf. The ethnic vegetarian: traditional and modern recipes from Africa, America, and the Caribbean. Emmaus, PA, Rodale, c2004. 272 p.
LC Call Number: TX837.M494 2004
LC Catalog Number: 2004011010
“Whether your goal is to embark on a healthier lifestyle, spice up your vegetarian repertoire, explore the amazingly rich and varied African-American culinary legacy, or simply try something new, delicious discoveries await you in this extraordinary cookbook.” (From the back cover).

Terry, Bryant. Afro-vegan: farm-fresh African, Caribbean & Southern flavors remixed. Berkeley, Ten Speed Press, 2014. 215 p.
LC Call Number: TX837.T4337 2014 OVERFLOWA5S
LC Catalog Number: 2013048560
“A groundbreaking cookbook from beloved chef-activist Bryant Terry, drawing from African, Afro-Caribbean, and Southern food to create over 100 enticing vegan dishes.” (Summary provided by the publisher).

Terry, Bryant. Vegan Soul kitchen: fresh, healthy, and creative African American cuisine. Cambridge, MA, Da Capo Press, 2009. 223 p.
Bibliography: p. 201-202.
LC Call Number: TX837.T434 2009
LC Catalog Number: 2008046945
“In this cutting-edge cookbook, eco-chef Bryant Terry offers innovative recipes that use fresh, whole, best-quality, healthy ingredients and cooking techniques with an eye on local, seasonal, sustainably grown food.” (From the back cover).



African American foodways: explorations of history and culture. Edited by Anne L. Bower. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, c2007. 183 p.
Includes bibliographical references.
LC Call Number: TX715.A2428 2007
LC Catalog Number: 2006100933
“Ranging from seventeenth-century West African fare to contemporary fusion dishes using soul food ingredients, the essays in this book provide an introduction to many aspects of African American foodways and an antidote to popular misconceptions about soul food. Examining the combination of African, Caribbean, and South American traditions, the volume’s contributors offer lively insights from history, literature, sociology, anthropology, and African American studies to demonstrate how food's material and symbolic values have contributed to African Americans' identity for centuries. Individual chapters examine how African foodways survived the passage into slavery, cultural meanings associated with African American foodways, and the contents of African American cookbooks, both early and recent.” (Summary provided by the publisher).

Covey, Herbert C., and Dwight Eisnach. What the slaves ate: recollections of African American foods and foodways from the slave narratives. Santa Barbara, CA, Greenwood Press/ABC-CLIO, c2009. 311 p.
Bibliography: p. 299-306.
LC Call Number: E443.C73 2009 OVERFLOWJ34
LC Catalog Number: 2009003907
“Carefully documenting African American slave foods, this book reveals that slaves actively developed their own foodways-their customs involving family and food. The authors connect African foods and food preparation to the development during slavery of Southern cuisines having African influences, including Cajun, Creole, and what later became known as soul food, drawing on the recollections of ex-slaves recorded by Works Progress Administration interviewers. Valuable for its fascinating look into the very core of slave life, this book makes a unique contribution to our knowledge of slave culture and of the complex power relations encoded in both owners' manipulation of food as a method of slave control and slaves' efforts to evade and undermine that control.” (From the publisher’s website).

Ferris, Marcie Cohen. The edible South: the power of food and the making of an American region. Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2014. 477 p.
Includes bibliographical references.
LC Call Number: GT2853.U5F47 2014
LC Catalog Number: 2014011442
“In The Edible South, Marcie Cohen Ferris presents food as a new way to chronicle the American South’s larger history. Ferris tells a richly illustrated story of southern food and the struggles of whites, blacks, Native Americans, and other people of the region to control the nourishment of their bodies and minds, livelihoods, lands, and citizenship. The experience of food serves as an evocative lens onto colonial settlements and antebellum plantations, New South cities and civil rights-era lunch counters, chronic hunger and agricultural reform, counterculture communes and iconic restaurants as Ferris reveals how food--as cuisine and as commodity--has expressed and shaped southern identity to the present day.” (From the publisher’s website).

Goucher, Candice Lee. Congotay! Congotay!: a global history of Caribbean food. Armonk, NY, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2014. 239 p.
Bibliography: p. 219-230.
LC Call Number: TX360.C35G68 2014 OVERFLOWA5S
LC Catalog Number: 2013018365
Congotay, Congotay! A Global History of Caribbean Food traces the confluence of cultures, peoples, and languages from four continents and the mixing of the foodways to create a truly global cuisine–offering an intriguing window on the Atlantic world, slavery, and Caribbean identity.” (From the back cover).

Harris, Jessica B. High on the hog: a culinary journey from Africa to America. New York, Bloomsbury, 2011. 291 p.
Includes bibliographical references.
LC Call Number: TX715.H29972 2011 OVERFLOWJ34
LC Catalog Number: 2010024899
“Cookbook author Jessica B. Harris has spent much of her life researching the food and foodways of the African Diaspora. High on the Hog is the culmination of years of her work, and the result is an engaging history of African American cuisine. Harris takes the reader on a harrowing journey from Africa across the Atlantic to America, tracking the trials that the people and the food have undergone along the way. From chitlins and ham hocks to fried chicken and vegan soul, Harris celebrates the delicious and restorative foods of the African American experience and details how each came to form such an important part of African American culture, history, and identity. Although the story of African cuisine in America begins with slavery, High on the Hog ultimately chronicles a history of triumph and survival.” (Summary provided by the publisher).

Houston, Lynn Marie. Food culture in the Caribbean. Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 2005. 166 p.
Bibliography: p. 157-159.
LC Call Number: TX716.A1H67 2005
LC Catalog Number: 2005003393
The Introduction includes information on geography and climate, religion, and the countries and territories in the Caribbean region, followed by a Timeline. Additional chapters include A Historical Overview, Major Foods and Ingredients, Cooking, Typical Meals, and Diet and Health, along with a Glossary and a Resource Guide.

Miller, Adrian. Soul food: the surprising story of an American cuisine, one plate at a time. Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2013. 332 p.
Includes bibliographical references.
LC Call Number: TX715.M6379 2013 OVERFLOWA5S
LC Catalog Number: 2013002823
“In this insightful and eclectic history, Adrian Miller delves into the influences, ingredients, and innovations that make up the soul food tradition. Focusing each chapter on the culinary and social history of one dish--such as fried chicken, chitlins, yams, greens, and "red drinks"--Miller uncovers how it got on the soul food plate and what it means for African American culture and identity.” (Summary provided by the publisher).

Mitchell, William Frank. African American food culture.  Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 2009. 118 p.
Bibliography: p. 113-114.
LC Call Number: GT2853.U5M57 2009
LC Catalog Number: 2008050411
“Like other Americans, African Americans partake of the general food offerings available in mainstream supermarket chains across the country. Food culture, however, may depend on where they live and their degree of connection to traditions passed down through generations since the time of slavery. Many African Americans celebrate a hybrid identity that incorporates African and New World foodways. The state of African American food culture today is illuminated in depth here for the first time, in the all-important context of understanding the West African origins of most African Americans of today.” (From the publisher’s website).

Opie, Frederick Douglass. Hog & hominy: soul food from Africa to America. New York, Columbia University Press, c2008. 238 p.
Bibliography: p. 211-226.
LC Call Number: TX715.O548 2008
LC Catalog Number: 2008020309
“Frederick Douglass Opie deconstructs and compares the foodways of people of African descent throughout the Americas, interprets the health legacies of black culinary traditions, and explains the concept of soul itself, revealing soul food to be an amalgamation of West and Central African social and cultural influences as well as the adaptations blacks made to the conditions of slavery and freedom in the Americas.” (From the publisher’s website).

Tipton-Martin, Toni. The Jemima code: two centuries of African American cookbooks. Austin, University of Texas Press, 2015. 246 p.
LC Call Number: TX715.T598 2015
LC Catalog Number: 2014033779
The Jemima Code presents more than 150 black cookbooks that range from a rare 1827 house servant’s manual, the first book published by an African American in the trade, to modern classics by authors such as Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor. The books are arranged chronologically and illustrated with photos of their covers; many also display selected interior pages, including recipes. Tipton-Martin provides notes on the authors and their contributions and the significance of each book, while her chapter introductions summarize the cultural history reflected in the books that follow. These cookbooks offer firsthand evidence that African Americans cooked creative masterpieces from meager provisions, educated young chefs, operated food businesses, and nourished the African American community through the long struggle for human rights. The Jemima Code transforms America’s most maligned kitchen servant into an inspirational and powerful model of culinary wisdom and cultural authority.” (From the publisher’s website).



2016 Aetna African American History Calendar: The Flavors of Community: African Americans Inspiring Lives Through Food External Link
Aetna’s 2016 calendar includes recipes as well as biographical sketches of African American chefs, activists, and food experts who are preserving African American heritage cooking while striving to build healthier communities.

African American Health
This website from MedlinePlus has links to information on the specific health concerns of the African American population. Sections of the site include Basics, Learn More, Research, Resources, and the special health issues of Men and Women.
Features on this website from the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion include the MyPlate Daily Checklist food plan, the SuperTracker online food, physical activity, and weight tracking tool, a food gallery of the five food groups, information on physical activity, and recipes.

Dirks, Robert T., and Nancy Duran. African American dietary patterns at the beginning of the 20th century. External Link The Journal of nutrition: JN, v. 131, July 2001: 1881-1889.
“Early field studies in human nutrition documented the eating habits of African Americans living in a variety of circumstances. We compare the results of these investigations. Our analysis shows systematic differences along a continuum reaching from remote, rural communities in the South toward increasingly metropolitan locations. On the latter end of the continuum, we find diets richer in protein, composed of a wider variety of foods and containing fewer of what we now call “soul foods.” Greater market involvement and access to low cost alternatives to more traditional foods help explain these developments.” (Author abstract).

Down Home Healthy Cooking: Recipes and Tips for Healthy Cooking
This cookbook from the National Cancer Institute includes entrees, side dishes, and desserts as well as suggestions for healthier ingredients and cooking techniques.

Healthy Soul Food Recipes External Link
“Find healthy, delicious soul food recipes, from the food and nutrition experts at EatingWell.” (From the website).

Heart Healthy Home Cooking African American Style: With Every Heartbeat is Life
From the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, this cookbook includes salads, vegetables, side and main dishes, and desserts, along with suggested substitutions for heart healthy cooking.

Oldways: African Heritage & Health External Link
Oldways’ African Heritage & Health program includes a cooking class, a list of restaurants serving foods from the African Diaspora, and an online African Heritage Diet CPE course.

Oldways: African Heritage Diet External Link
Oldways describes its mission as “to inspire healthy eating through cultural food traditions and lifestyles” and the African Heritage Diet section includes the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, a grocery list, and a guide to setting up an African Heritage kitchen.

Soulful Recipes: Building Healthy Traditions External Link (PDF, 5.5 MB)
This cookbook from the California Department of Health’s Champions for Change program also includes tips on storing fruits and vegetables and information on herbs and spices.



Additional works on African American cooking and health in the Library of Congress may be identified by searching the Online Catalog under appropriate Library of Congress subject headings. For additional assistance, please contact the Science Reference section using the Ask A Librarian form on our website.

African American cooking

African Americans--Food

African Americans--Health and hygiene

Cooking, American--Southern style

Cooking, Caribbean

Low-cholesterol diet

Low-fat diet

Salt-free diet

Vegetarian cooking

Vegan cooking

Denise P. Dempsey, September 2017

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