Soul food and processed sugars are in the bull’s eye of the debate about what’s wrong with the American diet, specifically which one of these “evils” should take the blame for the country’s raging obesity epidemic, which is driving the rising tide of type 2 diabetes sufferers.
But Roniece Weaver, dietitian and co-author of five wellness cookbooks, including Healthy Soul Food Cooking, has her sights set on another culprit. “It’s excessive amounts of carbohydrates,” she says. “Overeating carbs that don’t provide the good nutrients you need. It’s white rice, white bread. Anything beyond your dietary limits converts to fat, which makes you gain weight, which is one risk. Obesity is a sidebar risk factor to getting diabetes.”
She and other nutritionists recommend upping your intake of dark green leafy veggies and adding whole grains to your diet.
Casualties of the Epidemic
Of course, if you’re already diabetic (the statistics say 4.9 million African Americans have diabetes), debates about what causes the disease aren’t as important as managing it. Weaver recommends a holistic approach to her clients, and offers these tips:
- Eat a lower-fat diet.
- Watch your portions. “This is key to everybody, but it is very key to diabetics,” she cautions. “Calories are like your money in your budget. You’ve got 1,500 calories you have to spend per day. But you eat 3,600, and your budget is busted.”
- Eat on time.
- Eat at least three meals each day. “This prevents your hunger tank from going empty. We want you to feel like you’re always full. If you wait until you’re empty, you’re going to cap it off. If you’re half full, you don’t overeat.”
- Know your family history. “You may eventually get diabetes,” Weaver says, “but you can prevent getting it as long as possible.”
A Healthy Lifestyle Is the Goal
Some diabetics can control their disease by diet, but it depends on the patient. If their pancreas hasn’t produced any insulin at all, they’ll need insulin shots, Weaver explains. “Some have much success with dietary control only, but they are really diligent.”
So can you lower your diabetes risk through food? The bottom line, according to Weaver, is this: “Practice good principles. Have good shopping habits. Think about how you prepare your food, how you plate it, how you present it to your family. Get some physical activity. Follow these principles—they really help diabetics and non-diabetics alike stay on track.”
The Diabetes Epidemic Among African Americans
I’m Living With Diabetes
Know Your Family’s Medical History