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March 2011 Archives

Diabetes and Cultural Sensitivity---

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At the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) Conference today, Professor Luz Calvo (Cal State East Bay); Professor Catriona Rueda Esquibel (San Francisco State University); and McNair Scholar, Alberto Valdivia (Cal State East Bay) all spoke on the connections between health and food.  

The title of the panel:  "Decolonize Your Diet:  From Theory to Practice."  At the panel, an audience member said that her nutritionist could not understand the importance of beans in the audience member's diet.  


And this is my entry today:  about diet and understanding individual cultures when re-thinking one's eating habits in the face of disease (specifically diabetes) which has everything to do with diet.  

I grew up with beans (primarily pinto beans--sometimes black beans) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (even snacking)!  Beans are a staple in Mexican and Chican@ diets.  So how does one adjust to a low carbohydrate diet and still enjoy beans?  A cup of pinto beans is 42.5 grams of carbohydrates.  This is high but when you take into consideration the 14 grams of dietary fiber in pinto beans, the "net" carb (digestible carbohydrates) lowers the number to 28.5 grams of carbs.  So if you have 1/2 cup of beans (about 14 carbs) it seems more manageable especially when your carb limit is 30 grams for each meal of the day (15 carb limit for a snack).  Black beans are worse.  One cup of black beans is 40.8 carbs and only 4 grams of dietary fiber which makes for a 36.8 gram serving--much higher carb count than one should have in one sitting.  

ENTER the TEPARY BEAN!!-- Phaseolus (genus) acutifolius (species) literally means "wild bean" or "twining bean."  It's a beautiful name for a bean that has been around much before the conquest.  And it is a bean that can be of so much use to us now--especially those of us who suffer from diabetes and cancer.  The tepary bean is native to the Southwest and is one of the most drought resistant beans. A cup of tepary beans is 31 grams of carbs and when you subtract the 9 grams of fiber--it makes for a much lower carb serving at 22 than pinto (28.5) and black beans (36.8).  And it's chock full of potassium, protein, calcium, and iron!  

I purchase the tepary bean from a farm in Idaho:  Purcell Mountain Farms.  They grow the old variety of tepary, excavated in the 1900's from the Los Muertos prehistoric site in Arizona.  

The bean itself is smaller and has a nutty flavor. I've cooked it in a stew (minus potatoes and carrots of course), with kale, broccoli, green bell peppers, shallots, and lots of garlic.  Delicious!


Eating the tepary bean is indeed "decolonizing your diet" on various levels.  And it's delicious.  Mother Earth News magazine has a wonderful article about the tepary and it's hardiness and Seeds of Change also offers the bean (for planting) and has an excellent article about it as well.  

I thank Professors Luz Calvo, Catriona Esquibel and McNair Scholar Alberto Valdivia for making sure there is conversation, debate, much needed sharing about what we are placing inside our bodies.  It is only after being diagnosed with Diabetes, have I come to a profound understanding of the fragility of our chemical balancing--how processed food is destroying us on so many levels.  Case in point:  just yesterday the Center of Science in the Public Interest announced the dangers of food additives (processed foods!) and how these additives are causing havoc in children's bodies.  

Now that I am following a careful diet counting carbohydrates and eating local foods, preparing my own food -- I see a huge difference.  We need to look deeper/in a more historical  way at our own culture and the foods we eat.  Nutritionists have a lot of work to do!