CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — University researchers are investigating whether soul food featuring fat and salt can be made healthy and delicious by using plants-only recipes.

A two-year study based at the University of South Carolina is trying to learn what happens then ingredients are changed in ways that cut calories and can prevent heart disease, The Post and Courier of Charleston reports .

Scientists are recruiting people to test vegan versions of the food that sprang from Sunday gatherings at African-American churches after slavery was abolished in the South. The aim is, in part, revisiting the traditional African diet that is mostly plant-based, said Anthony Crimarco, a doctoral student on the research.

"We're hoping it resonates with them in some way, so they feel a better connection when they try to change their diet," he said.

Studies rank South Carolina residents as suffering some of the country's highest levels of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Black adults fared worse than any group in the state, with nearly 42 percent obese in 2016.

The idea behind the project is to see if soul-food fans can accept recipes that are rejiggered to more plants and away from pork or deep-fat frying. The aim is also encouraging participants to move away from salt in favor of healthier and mineral-rich spices such as allspice, cardamom and garlic.

Participants will be encouraged to bring in their own recipes for discussion about simple ways to make the dishes healthier, said Brie Turner-McGrievy, lead researcher on the project.

Research subjects will be assigned into two groups. One will eat a healthy take on soul food that includes animal products like meat and dairy. Another group will be assigned a plant-based diet. Participants must be willing to try either diet.

Subjects will attend classes, be assigned a nutritionist and be compensated financially.

African-Americans could stand to benefit even more than their white counterparts if they switch to a vegetable-based diet, said Debbie Petitpain, a dietitian at the Medical University of South Carolina. Though researchers don't quite know why, black subjects participating in other studies have made greater improvements than other demographic groups when they try eating mostly fruits, vegetables and grains, she said.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com