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Healthy lifestyle blog featuring plant-based recipes, healthy eating tips, restaurant reviews from around the world, and more.

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Type 2 Diabetes and Why You Are Not a Victim of your Genes

Carolina Sanchez

A display of tropical fruits at el Palacio de los Jugos in Miami, FL

If you look yourself in the mirror today, can you honestly tell yourself that you have done everything you can to make your body healthy? Today is World Diabetes Day, a day to bring awareness about the disease. So, I hope that my blog can be a small contribution to show that there is an alternative way, and that in many cases, diabetes can be prevented and reversed. You are not a victim of your genes.

Last weekend, I took a drive over to a very popular spot for Cubans in Miami called El Palacio de los Jugos (The Juice Palace). I always enjoy getting a fresh coconut there. They have a guy that takes a machete and chops off the top right before your eyes and puts a straw in it, and for $2.50 you can sip on that tropical goodness. But I looked around and I was the only one drinking a coconut. Everyone around me was sitting eating rice and beans (most likely cooked in pork fat and oil), fried pig, fried yuca, and a host of other fried foods. People come there to eat the fried, greasy food more so than the coconuts. There aren't exactly lot of veggie options on the menu. So then I wandered over to the produce section, and they had displays full of things like papaya, mamey, bananas, rambutan, and even some veggies like carrots, onions, and potatoes. The produce is reasonably priced too. So why isn't anyone eating it?

The Cuban diet is very high in animal protein, starches, refined sugars, salt, and junk foods, and very low in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and as a result, there are high rates of diabetes, cholesterol, and heart disease among Cubans.

Too Much Fruit in Sugar?

One thing I noticed is that a lot of people feel that eating a lot of fruit isn't good for you because it contains "too much sugar." I have had many Cubans with type 2 diabetes tell me this. But then they're eating fried foods, sugary processed cookies and cakes, and the list goes on. There needs to be a mentality shift when considering which foods are good for our body. It isn't all about a nutrition label. Just because a pack of highly processed cookies says there are only 2 grams of sugar per serving, it doesn't make them healthy by any stretch of the imagination. First of all, how many cookies are in that serving, and what are the ingredients? It is most likely something that was made in a factory far away (or maybe not so far), and at best, a science experiment. I can tell you how many ingredients are in a whole, fresh fruit: 1. There is no mystery. It's nature's perfect food. Because fruit is filled with fiber, it doesn't make your blood sugar spike right away like processed sugars.

Is Type 2 Diabetes Genetic?

The second thing I noticed is that people believe their diabetes was passed on by their parents and/or grandparents. People look for any excuse to blame their illnesses on someone else, it removes the blame and responsibility for their own actions. The only thing passed on are bad habits. It isn't the genes that are determining people's fates. Type 2 diabetes is largely provoked by obesity, poor diet, and lack of exercise. In 9 of 10 cases, type II diabetes can be prevented and reversed [1].

How Can I Get Off of Sugar?

The third reason is that, people simply do not know how to eat or prepare healthy foods. It is simply not in their repertoire and they stick to what is comfortable to their habits and their taste buds. Their taste buds are hooked on sugar, salt, and fat, which are all highly addictive. What most people don't know, is that the human taste buds change every 14 days, and you can retrain your body to eat healthier. I tell all of my clients this because people often come to me and ask how they can get off of sugar. After telling them this, and of course, providing them with all of the knowledge to eat better, they come back and tell me that even after just a few days of eating a plant-based vegan diet, they don't crave the sugar anymore. Their body just rejects it, and if they eat it, they can instantly notice it in baked goods, and their body doesn't seem to agree with it anymore. That is empowerment.

What are the Numbers?

The death rate from diabetes among Cuban Americans is more than twice than that of non-Hispanic Whites, or 47 per 10,000 as opposed to 22 per 10,000 [2]. Diabetes is the underlying cause of death for 44% of Cuban Americans, compared to 39% for Puerto Rican Americans and 37% for Mexican Americans [2], and a study from 1986-1995 shows that Coronary Heart Disease was the number one cause of death for Cuban Americans. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is a largely preventable and reversible disease, caused from poor diet and lifestyle choices.

The data comes from a study done in Miami-Dade and Broward counties by selecting every tenth address from a randomly generated mailing list of Cuban-Americans. Of the total of 367 participants, 190 had type 2 diabetes, and 117 did not. So, 52% of the participants had type 2 diabetes.

What Can You Do to Change?

By choosing a low-fat, 100% whole foods, plant-based diet, you make yourself heart attack proof, can prevent type 2 diabetes, and you can heal your body. Statins, stents, and other medications and procedures have not actually been shown to heal a person with heart disease, they simply patch up the problem like a bandaid until the next coronary event occurs. Think about it, why do people need those things in the first place? It is for lack of taking care of their body over the years, and then they find themselves among 1.2 million other Americans who have heart attacks every year. It is no coincidence that so many people have heart attacks. There is absolutely no reason for it and we can do our own part to prevent it, and if you already have heart disease, you CAN reverse it! If you think eating fatty, sugary, salty foods is part of your culture and norms to fit in, take a step back ask yourself if cultural norms are worth compromising your life.

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented and reversed by staying physically active and eating a low-fat plant-based diet. Our bodies were not designed to eat all of the junk and science experiments that are on the grocery shelves. Those things were produced in a factory and there are consequences for eating it. Choose whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and a small amount of nuts and seeds. Avoid processed foods, oils, sugars, and anything with ingredients that you cannot pronounce.

I wake up everyday ready to live each day to the fullest and enjoy my time on this earth with my family and friends. I am empowered and in control of my health and I urge you to do the same.

References______________________________________________________________________

1. 

"Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes." 

Harvard School of Public Health.

N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2014. <http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/preventing-diabetes-full-story/>.

2. Huffman, Fatma, et al. "Coronary Heart Disease Risk in Cuban Americans with and without Type 2 Diabetes." 

The Internet Journal of Health

 12.1 (2009): n. pag. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <https://ispub.com/IJH/12/1/7750>.