Sunday, April 17, 2016

Understanding Your Body by Decolonizing Your Body

Kudos to Dr. Judith Estrada (Director of The Chicano Latino Resource Center) and Dr. Rebecca Hernandez Rosser (Director of The American Indian Resource Center) at The University of California, Santa Cruz for organizing a two-day event for students, faculty, and staff, to receive Diabetes education, to understand connections with Gloria Anzaldua's writings and Diabetes, and to partake in a lecture on health healing/cooking demonstration by professors, Dr. Luz Calvo and Dr. Catriona Esquibel, authors of the cookbook, Decolonize Your Diet: Plant Based Mexican American Recipes for Health and Healing.

Left to right:  Dr. Amelia Montes, Dr. Judith Estrada, Dr. Rebecca Hernandez Rosser, Dr. Catriona Esquibel, Dr. Luz Calvo
It's shocking to most audience members when I first give them statistics-- that Diabetes Type II has more than doubled in the past decade; that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) projects more than 1 in 3 babies born since the year 2000 will develop Type II Diabetes in their lifetimes.  From 1997 to 2010, rates have increased 41% for Mexicans and Mexican Americans.  Despite such alarming statistics and projections, I do believe there is hope as long as we keep talking about Diabetes, about the food choices we make, as long as more education is offered to everyone-- not just for those who have been diagnosed.  

Lecture for students, faculty, and staff at UCSC regarding Diabetes

Dr. Amelia Montes during the Q&A
Gloria Anzaldúa (who was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes) wrote, "The Illness led me to move my awareness out of my head and into my body."  There is indeed an awareness of the body that occurs when one is vigilant--taking multiple daily blood tests, recording glucose numbers in a log to track how those numbers reveal what one cannot judge simply by guessing.  One becomes much more connected to the body's metabolic, electric functions.  We realize that the body is a fascinating machine working for us 24/7. Unfortunately, the food items on our grocery store shelves more often than not are more detrimental to our bodies than helpful, causing our "machine" to malfunction.

"Low" fat or "non" fat foods are especially problematic.  It was during the 1970s that the sugar industry began promoting this "low" or "non" fat term in order to make the consumer think that the food item was healthy for them.  "Fat" had become a negative term.  Just take out the "fat" and all would be fine, right?  Wrong.  When one takes out the "fat" from a food item (yogurt, for example), there is no flavor.  Enter the sugar industry.  They immediately added sugar.  Buyer beware of anything that says "non" or "low" fat.  The sugar industry is not interested in the well being of your body.  The sugar industry is all about profit.  And they know that sugar (carbohydrates) are addictive  and are keen on banking on this fact (check out scientific article here on sugar addiction).

Dr. Amelia Montes speaks during food demonstration
Next time you are in the grocery store, check out the amount of carbohydrates in a "non" or "low" fat food item.  These items will come with 15, 20, even 30 or 40 carbohydrates and hardly any fiber.  Carbohydrate is "sugar" (no need to look at the sugar content-- always check the carb count).  

In all my lectures on Diabetes Type II, I encourage everyone to choose foods that contain over 4 grams of fiber with lower carbohydrate counts (below 20).  In this way-- the fiber will help to slow the absorption of carbohydrate/sugars which allows the body to manage the food more efficiently.   

Example:  Kiwi fruit is delicious.  Most people like eating kiwi.  Often, though, it is served without the skin or people peel the skin.  Next time you eat kiwi fruit, eat the skin!  The skin has incredible fiber nutrients and you get more Vitamin C as well!  One kiwi has about 11 carbohydrates and over 7 grams of fiber.  These are excellent fiber/carbohydrate numbers.  

Fiber, then, is important when choosing fruit to eat.  Avoid juicing!  Juicing throws away all the nutritious fiber.  Drinking juice without fiber is like mainlining sugar.  It only serves to give the body of jolt of sugar.  By eating the fruit instead of drinking only its juice, the act of mastication or chewing allows more efficient break down by enzymes in the body.  Eating fruit slows entry into the body, lengthens the moment of pleasure, and less is consumed.  It takes 3-4 apples to fill an 8-ounce glass with only the juice. A small to medium-sized apple has about 21 carbohydrates and almost 4 grams of fiber.  One 8-ounce glass of apple juice has almost 30 carbohydrates and 0.5 grams of fiber.  

Even better than an apple, have a full cup of delicious raspberries for a snack or dessert.  One cup of raw raspberries contains only 14.7 carbohydrates and a whopping 8 grams of fiber.  

Kiwi fruit:  Eat the skin!!
Dr. Luz Calvo and Dr. Catriona Esquibel, authors of Decolonize Your Diet: Plant Based Mexican American Recipes for Health and Healing  offer delicious recipes.  In their book, they write:  "Our project was born out of both struggle and love, both personal and political.  Decolonize Your Diet begins with the premise that we are living with the legacy of over 500 years of colonization of the Americas . . . We are writing a cookbook, but not just for individual cooks to read, or even cook from, while isolated in their kitchens.  The project of decolonizing our diets cannot be accomplished through individual acts of food preparation.  Instead, we hope that our project will inspire our readers to think critically about the effects of colonization on the food we eat and motivate them to get involved in their communities.  

Danny Campos and Dr. Amelia Montes. Danny Campos is the Program Coordinator of
El Centro of the Chicano Latino Resource Center at the University of California Santa Cruz
We encourage our readers to act collectively to create a world in which everyone--from the residents of U.S. urban food deserts, to farmworkers, to small farmers--has access to organic, wholesome, ancestral foods that are grown in ways that respect the delicate ecosystems of our planet" (15).  In the food demonstration at University of California, Santa Cruz, they delighted the audience with their "Cauliflower Ceviche."  (The recipe is on page 64 of Decolonize Your Diet).  

Left to Right:  Dr. Catriona Esquibel and Dr. Luz Calvo during their cooking demonstration at UCSC
Dr. Luz Calvo preparing "Cauliflower Ceviche"
Gloria Anzaldúa loved Santa Cruz.  She lived there for many years and loved going out to the beach and visiting the tree pictured below.  During my time in Santa Cruz, I was grateful to visit this place and contemplate the revolution happening right now among Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino communities-- to unify the mind and body, to pay more attention to what foods we choose and how we prepare the food we eat.  I invite you, dear reader, to join us!  Sending all of you delicious eating and uplifting energies!  Y gracias to Wanda Alarcon, Dr. Cindy Cruz, and Dr. Marcia Ochoa for coming out to witness and attend the lecture.  ¡Gracias, mujeres!  ¡Abrazos!

Gloria Anzaldúa's favorite place in Santa Cruz, California (her favorite tree)
Close-up of Gloria Anzadúa's favorite tree in Santa Cruz, California

Left to Right:  Dr. Amelia M.L. Montes, Dr. Catriona Esquibel, Dr. Luz Calvo

Dr. Amelia Montes with Wanda Alarcon and Dr. Cindy Cruz

Gloria Anzaldua's favorite shore in Santa Cruz, California

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