Preventing diabetes — the role of fruits and veggies

BY BARBARA STORZ

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day. Around the globe people struggle to prevent or control diabetes. In the Rio Grande Valley, recent research shows that we have a 25 percent adult population with diabetes and 28 percent diagnosed with prediabetes. Together, that is more than half of all adults living in the Valley. And, unfortunately, juvenile diabetes is on the rise locally, as well.

While these numbers are daunting, there is plenty to do to prevent diabetes or stop prediabetes. Choosing foods high in fiber and low in calories, such as vegetables can be a key measure to improve our ability to fight off the disease.

Filling half of our plates with steamed or roasted vegetables and choosing low calorie carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes or baked winter squash can be a major step in the right direction. Vegetables, along with a small portion of lean protein and a salad should make your meal. Choose water as your beverage of choice at and eliminate soda. Raw fruits can be a great desert, especially if you choose such fruits as dragon fruit that don’t spike our sugar. Set small goals every day to improve your health to succeed at changing your habits.

Increase your physical activity by adding a brisk daily walk. Stand and move as much as possible at the office. Gardening is great if you have the time and space. Increasing your activity level will add up to positive change, especially if you make your health a priority every day.

Today, the Growing Growers Farmers Market in McAllen will offer educational programs and food demonstrations with diabetes prevention in mind. The high school group, “Bye Bye Butter,” will demonstrate snacks that are especially suitable for children with diabetes.

Additionally, the market is hosting the nursing program from South Texas College, which will present materials on how to avoid and reduce obesity, one of the major causes of diabetes and heart disease. Be sure to check for vegetable recipes at the welcome desk.

The market has a wide range of fruits and vegetables as well as locally grown grass-fed beef. This market is located in Firemen’s Park on the corner of 1st Street and Business 83 and it is open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Let’s all work together to improve our health and that of our families in the Valley.

Next week, I welcome Ashley Gregory, horticulturist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, as a contributing writer for this column. I am sure you will enjoy her views of gardening.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her gardening show at from 7 to 9 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Radio. Reach her by email at bstorz@rcommunications.com.