Chicago, Il. — Four prominent Chicago South Asian restaurants have made significant strides toward developing heart-healthy options thanks to a new initiative called SAHEB or South Asian Healthy Eating Benefits.

In January, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Advocate Heart Institute’s South Asian Cardiovascular Center launched a pilot program to raise awareness of the prevalence of heart disease in the South Asian community.

“We know individuals of South Asian descent are at higher risk for severe early-onset heart disease than any other racial or ethnic group,” said CDPH’s Acting Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita in a press release.

“To overcome this disparity, we must work directly with the community to create new, innovative ways to encourage better eating habits and other lifestyle changes.”

The Curry Bowl, Gaylord Fine Indian Cuisine, Mysore Woodlands and Viceroy of India have committed to reducing the amount of sodium in popular menu items over the course of the year. After the first month, Gaylord Fine Indian Cuisine and Mysore Woodlands have already met the ten-percent reduction goal. 

”Restaurant owners and chefs accepted the challenge and underwent hours of health and nutrition training by the SAHEB team and implementing changes that can be replicated at home,” said SACC medical director Dr. Shoeb J. Sitafalwalla in a press release. 

A SAHEB-appointed nutritionist worked one-on-one with the restaurants’ owners and chefs to reduce the sodium and saturated fat content in identified foods while retaining the flavor and spice in the dishes.

The pilot includes sodium testing after one month, three months and six months. After meeting the target reduction goals, the restaurants will be recognized as being SAHEB-certified. 

With a population of 43,400, South Asians are the Chicago’s fastest growth ethnic group. According to the SACC, South Asians are four times more likely to suffer from heart disease than the general population.

Most recently, Patel Brothers, the largest South Asian food retailer in the country, based in Illinois, has agreed to join the SAHEB initiative to raise awareness and help combat health disparities in Chicago. Patel Brothers have agreed to provide healthier packaged food items and to incorporate consumer education in the aisles of their stores. 

A special "A Red Sari Evening" at the Macy's on State Street March 7 aimed to raise awareness about an epidemic of heart disease in the South Asian community.

All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the South Asian cardiovascular center.

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