By: Corinne L. Quinn

November is here. Gradually, the days have become shorter and the weather colder. This signals the beginning of the festive holiday season, which is a time to gather and enjoy wonderful meals and the company of family and friends. With that in mind, it is also good to remember that November is Diabetes Awareness Month.  

According to The American Diabetes Association, more than 8% of the US population has diabetes. The vast majority of these cases are Type II (non insulin dependent) diabetes, in which the body does not make enough insulin or utilize the insulin that is produced effectively. Of particular concern are African-Americans who are disproportionately affected by type II diabetes.   

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that over 12% of the US African-American population has diabetes. Even more disturbing is that according to the California Department of Public Health, more than 12% of the African-American population in the state of California has diabetes. Mirroring that statistic is that more than 12% of the African-American population in Solano County has diabetes.  

Diabetes is one of the oldest diseases known to man. More than 2,000 years ago, the Greek physician Aretaeus described diabetes as a “slow, painful, and disgusting disease.” Fortunately, today, due to advances in treatment, diabetes can be managed and even prevented. The simplest way to manage and prevent diabetes is by eating a low fat, high fiber diet.

Following these simple tips during the holidays, and every day of the year, can reduce your risk of diabetes and other chronic illnesses:

Make Healthy Food Choices:

  • Eat smaller portions. Resist the temptation to go for seconds of every dish.
  • Eat less fat. Watch those fried foods and fatty cuts of meat.
  • Eat less sugary foods. Watch those cakes, cookies, and candies.  
  • Drink less sugary drinks. Watch those sodas and fruit-flavored drinks. Drink more pure water.
  • Eat a variety of brightly colored, vitamin and mineral rich fruits and vegetables, such as apples, pomegranates, broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes and pumpkins (WITHOUT the added sugar).
  • Eat more fiber. Beans and lentils (cooked WITHOUT meat) and 100% whole grain and cereal are excellent sources of fiber.
  • Use less salt in cooking and less salt added to foods. Put away that salt shaker and use spices such as pepper and garlic instead.
  • Take a look at healthy meal recipes on the web. Food Network’s Holiday Central 2011 has some healthy simple recipes.

Be Physically Active:

  • Start slowly and gradually increase your physical activity
  • Be physically active at least 30 minutes per day
  • Physical activity takes place in a variety of forms, including gardening, yard work, and house cleaning
  • Take a walk or ride your bike around the block several times
  • Park farther away from the entrance of the mall or the grocery store

These suggestions may seem overwhelming at first. However, when small changes are made, over time, they will produce visible results. Stay motivated and have a happy, safe, and blessed Holiday Season.

Corinne L. Quinn, MSPH, CHES, is the Coordinator of the African American Health Disparities Program, an initiative of Solano Coalition for Better Health