The abundance of fried food means higher calories and more saturated fats.
Traditional Southern food tastes great, but it's often high in calories and saturated fat. As a region, the South suffers from higher rates of strokes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
A 2007 CDC survey found that states in the Southeast and Southwest were also leaders in heart disease. While the reasons aren't always clear, factors such as lower access to health care, lower exercise rates, socioeconomic and cultural differences and poor eating patterns all contribute to the higher rates of chronic disease.
How healthy are Southern favorites such as biscuits, hash browns and grits?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent: Traditionally, food in the South is not as healthy as it could be. There's a lot of fried food with even some steaks being battered and fried. Let's take a breakfast dish at a popular restaurant chain of three sausage links, hash browns, two eggs with cheese, a biscuit with butter and jelly and orange juice. That's a total of 1,650 calories and 101 grams of fat. Forty-two grams of the dish are artery-clogging saturated fat. This meal contains 75 percent of your daily calorie allotment and more than a day's worth of saturated fat.
A high-fat diet can really do a number on your body. You have less energy, and you increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. In fact, these are all issues that have been problems in the South for some time.
Are Southerners less healthy than the rest of the country?
Gupta: You can't make a blanket statement like that. However, people in the South do struggle with some chronic diseases. They have more heart disease and stroke than the rest of the country. The top five states for people who die from strokes are Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and North Carolina. The states with the highest proportion of heart disease are West Virginia and Kentucky, followed by Mississippi, which was ranked the unhealthiest state in 2007.
What are the reasons for this?
Gupta: There are two major reasons: lifestyle and medical care. People in the Southeast have higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They have diets that are higher in saturated fats. They eat less fiber, and fewer fruits and vegetables. Plus, they exercise less. In some states, they exercise 15 percent less than the rest of the country. Southerners also have less access to health care. This is true for more than 20 percent of those in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. Compare this to Minnesota and Wisconsin where only 9 percent don't have coverage.
The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.