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August 2011 Archives

How Mexicans are Made Diabetic---

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Genetics is not the answer to "why" people develop Diabetes and yet literature on Diabetes (even pamphlets in doctor's offices) will point to biology.  Mexicans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, have a greater biological propensity for this disease.  I've often heard, "It's in our blood" from my Mexican family members, from doctors.  But is it?  

Michael Montoya's journey into the maze of the genome Diabetes project is an excellent response to this myth.  His book, Making the Mexican Diabetic:  Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality uncovers the contradictions inherent in placing race on biology without taking into consideration social, political, and historical constructions that are key to the "making" of a society afflicted with this disease.  

"Indian ancestry," writes Montoya, "is a central ideological feature of the diabetes enterprise. Evidence of beliefs about blood-based heredity was easily elicited from field office staff when commenting upon the causes of diabetes.  But so too were notions of social etiologies of diabetes.  When explaining the causes of diabetes, staff members explain that genes and life conditions together explain diabetes . . . 'Genes are passed from one generation to another, but basically it's our way of eating'" (98).  And how can populations of Mexican descent along the border or in working class neighborhoods take the time to exercise or have the means to maintain a healthy diet when a half dozen tacos or a hamburger with fries and a coke is half the price of a pound of organic spinach?  

T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell's book The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health supports Montoya's findings.  In this book, Campbell and Campbell look at how our fast food industry is slowly making us seriously ill.  But the genome project and the contradictory findings don't help clarify the problem of Diabetes.  It is not enough to simply say, "It's in the blood."  

"Genes do not cause chronic disease," Montoya writes.  "Genes in certain bodies under certain conditions contribute to disease susceptibility" (187).  This may explain why in a family of 3 children, two have diabetes and one will not develop the disease.  It is not simply about blood but about a number of other factors (diet, exercise, living conditions, etc.) having to do with societal and political constructions.  

Montoya's book which was just published (University of California Press) is an excellent study in how our society is creating a population highly susceptible to chronic disease-- whether or not you are of Mexican or Indian descent!

Growing Stevia--a natural sweetener

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This is Stevia or "stevia rebaudiana" or maybe you've heard of it as "sweetleaf," or "sugarleaf."  Take a bit of a leaf from the plant and taste it.  Your mouth will be filled with an intense sweetness but without the aftertaste of other types of artificial sweeteners.  And it is much safer than the processed artificial chemical sweeteners.  
Stevia is an herb that is native to South America and can grow in any subtropical and tropical region from western North American as well as South America.  

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You can grow it in a pot (as seen above -- and look at how tall the plant gets) or you can also plant it in your vegetable garden.  Stevia plants prefer, since they are subtropical, full sun and heat.  This is why in Nebraska, they do so well during the summer months but must be taken indoors during the winter.  By fall, it is good to harvest the leaves and dry them on a screen in full sun for about an hour.  Then you can place the dried leaves in a coffee grinder or food processor to be used throughout the year as a sweetener.  You can also eat the leaves fresh if you so wish--placing them in drinks or in yogurt or salads.  Just remember that a small amount is all you need.  These leaves have about 40 times the sweetness of processed sugar.  Just take a taste of a leaf, and you'll see!  

Stevia is a perfect natural low-sugar food alternative.  It has no effect on blood glucose levels and therefore is an excellent food for those with Diabetes or anyone who is counting their carbohydrate intake.  

You can also purchase already processed stevia liquid or powder at your local co-op/health food store.  


The "SweetLeaf" company has created a number of stevia products with natural flavoring.  Above is the Vanilla Creme.  I personally like the cinnamon.  

But how much more fun to grow your own organic stevia during the summer months and have it for the rest of the year!  I encourage you to grow your own stevia and have fun doing it!  In the picture below I'm holding the Stevia and below the plant you can see what looks like daisies but they are not daisies--they are echinacea -- another excellent herb to use for tea and, like stevia, it is also a healing herb.  

Some history:  The Guarani tribe of Paraguay included Stevia in their diet.  They called it ka'a he'e ("sweet herb").  They used stevia in their "yerba mate" and other medicinal teas.  Of late, stevia is being recommended to individuals with hypertension as well as diabetes.  

One of my chapters in my book, _The Diabetes Chronicles_ is devoted to organic farming (urban farming!), focusing on foods to grow that are excellent nutrition for individuals with diabetes.  

The act of growing your own herbs (medicinal, etc.) is so enjoyable, healing, and good for the earth. I wish you much enjoyment with your time in the garden and in your kitchen creating new and exciting, health-filled dishes!  Wising you good health and much cooking pleasure!

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First I want to thank and also send props to our Macondo Writing Workshop participants: Barbara Renaud, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Veronica Reyes, Juan Guzman, Gabriela Lemmons, Laurie Ann Guerrero, Rene Colato Lainez and the best co-teacher I could ever have, Pat Alderete! and thanks also to Anel Flores (chuparosa for the week) who came to visit for two sessions. Orale Anel!  You all RAWK!

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With every writing workshop, participants often ask, "How can we continue writing?" or they worry about going back to their routines where for them it is a struggle to carve out time to write.  Maybe you are in that same situation.

If you are, I am posting here a link to Laurie Halse Anderson's site:  "Write Fifteen Minutes a Day Challenge."  That's all--just fifteen minutes. Leslea Newman wrote in to Anderson's site and said she's going to use this challenge to write a poem every day for the month of August.  Andale!  

Here are some other writing tips that I have found helpful:  Macondista Beatriz Terrazas and I discussed how we like writing first thing in the morning.  Another Macondista, Joy Castro, does the same thing.  You wake up and have your writing journal, computer, paper right next to your bed or you immediately get to your writing space and take the first hour, two or three to write.  No interruptions--no excuses.  First thing.  As Beatriz says--"then you've got it out and you have the entire day ahead of you and you feel good.  You have success right away!"

I have been taking the morning to write and then the afternoon/evening to edit.  But everyone is different.  Some of you may not be morning writers.  You may be better equipped after the 9 or 10p.m. hour.  Well--do the same, just in reverse!  Orale.  

It's August 1st-- think positive!  Lots of great writing ahead.  This blog is dedicated to my fabulous Macondista writers!  I'm cheering you on Gabriela, Veronica, Laurie Ann, Anel, Barbara, Charles, Juan-Luis, Rene, y Pata!  And all of you writers out there who I do not know--I wish you good writing energies as well.