We’d never look you in the eye and try to deny how darn good it tastes, what with fried chicken’s crunchy crispiness and sweet tea’s pleasant aftertaste. But, drats, a new study confirms what you and I knew to be true when our favorite Queen of Southern Cuisine, Paula Deen, revealed she had developed Type 2 diabetes in 2012. Yep, so-called “Southern-style” eating (along the lines of greasy, gooey bacon-cheese fries) does not do a body good.

In the latest study finding, the Southern-style diet is linked to a higher risk of stroke, according to research presented on February 7th, in Honolulu, at an American Stroke Association conference.

In what University of Alabama researchers called the first large-scale study to examine the relationship between stroke and Southern foods, among the 20,000 black and white adults (ages 45-plus) monitored, those who ate Southern-style foods six times weekly were 41 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who feasted on Southern-style cuisine once monthly.

The researchers defined a Southern-style diet as one involving a high intake of fried foods including fried chicken, fried fish, fried potatoes, as well as bacon, ham, liver, and sugary beverages such as sweet tea. These soul foods, while comforting to many, are high-fat and tend to be heavily salted.

3 researcher-identified health hazards of Southern-style eating:

* Fatty foods lead to high cholesterol

* Sugary drinks are linked to diabetes

* Salty foods lead to high blood pressure

Two-thirds of those eating the most Southern foods lived in the Southeastern U.S. This makes sense considering that, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the American stroke belt comprises Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolinas, Tennessee, and Virginia.

On the flip side, those whose diets included the most:

* Fruits

* Legumes (peas, lentils, beans)

* Whole grains

Meaning, those who ate these foods about five times weekly, were 29 percent less likely to have a stroke compared to those who ate these foods the least, or about three times weekly.

If the thought of banning all fried foods makes you miserable, this may be an excellent time to apply the no-guilt Joy Bauer-coined 90/10 dietary approach. With this less rigid, more realistic and flexible route to healthy eating, as long as you’re making sensible and healthy food choices 90 percent of the time, you’re set free to indulge in unhealthy food pleasures the remaining 10 percent of the time. How’s that for compromise?

How often do You give into Southern comforts?