Salud Saturday: Of Platano, Yucca, Papa… and Diabetes

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Guest post by Christina Elizabeth Rodríguez (@kikisbetes)

I went to a Colombian steak house the other day here in Chicago for what more?  A steak. Oh. My. Goodness! It was delicious, meaty, and juicy; everything a steak should be. The sides were platano, yucca y papa. It didn’t matter that my blood sugar was low to begin with but I knew that I was going to have to count all the carbs and take into consideration that this steak was one big monster! I knew I was going to be taking extra insulin for this meal.

Ya se, it’s been a while since you’ve seen my posts up here, pero ni modo! Keep up with me!

Let me explain everything I just said in the first paragraph and let me tell you a little more about myself. So, in December I was put on an insulin pump. It’s a small pager-like machine that is hooked on to my pocket and connected through a catheter to my side. I’m always connected and always getting my appropriate doses of insulin so I don’t have to take shots any more. That’s so old-fashioned!

Anyway, each day at a certain time, I have certain basal rates. Basal rates are exact doses of insulin I get every hour. Por ejemplo, at 9 a.m. I get 2 units of insulin every hour but at 11 a.m. I get 2.1 units because I’m sitting at work all day, not doing much. Are you with me so far?


So, basically, I’m being held at a constant balance with the basal rates. But when I eat, I have to take more insulin to compensate for the extra food I’m consuming. That’s called a bolus. A bolus is one large dose of insulin given to me specifically for whatever I put in my mouth. That’s when I pull out the little machine and you hear, beep! Beep! Beep! This is when I have to count my carbs and do my fun calculations.

When I saw papa, yucca and platano, I knew right away that this would be a pretty hefty meal. I didn’t eat the papa because all the carbohydrates make my blood sugars spike right after I eat, meaning that they go really high about a half hour to an hour after consumption. I can take the right amount of insulin, but I have to wait a while for it to come down and I feel horrible during the process. Platano is a little healthier, but it was fried so I had to give myself enough insulin for all the carbohydrates. The yucca is also very starchy and high in carbs. Then you have the steak! Que rico! But I have to take into consideration the fat content. Fat slows down the effect of insulin so it takes longer to work. I might have also needed more insulin to combat the steak, but nonetheless, I took the amount of insulin calculated for the meal.

I do this for every meal. Can you imagine having to count the carbs and watch what you eat because you don’t want your blood sugars to go up? Many of you don’t, but you should. Because Latinos eat a lot of carbohydrates, fried food and fatty meat, we have to watch our intake of it all. My question was: Why didn’t I get a side of vegetables instead of the papa? The carbs that the meal contained would make anyone’s body react the way my mind reacted. You don’t think about it because your body does it automatically, but I have to.

See, when you eat a lot of carbs, your body pumps out more and more insulin to help you digest it, save it and use it for energy. Pero, what you DON’T know, is that because of genetics and the possibility of insulin resistance, your insulin-producing cells can give out and stop working. This is how you get Type 2 diabetes from the foods that you eat.

Insulin resistance can be hereditarily passed down through generations. Because your body is resistant to insulin, this can affect the way your muscles, liver and body fat react to what you’re eating. The insulin hormone is not just for metabolizing your food. It also communicates to your other organs, telling them what to do with the sugar in your system. If your body does not absorb the glucose through body fat, save it in your live or use it in your cells and muscles, it leaks through your urine giving you diabetes, or “sweet urine disease.”

You can help yourself be healthy. Next time, don’t eat the papa! Next time, get the salad instead! Next time, eat only half the steak! Next time, stay away from greasy food! These are suggestions. But the next time you sit down for a meal, en serio, think about what you’re putting in your mouth.

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Christina is a writer who lives in Chicago. She has a Master’s in journalism from the UIUC and writes non-fiction, fiction and poetry. You may find her inspired musings on life, media and music at Mine & Mine Only. Christina is a Type I #diabetic and she writes about living with the disease at theDiabetes Types A Blog.  You may also know her as @kiki416.



    Cris 5 years ago

    Unfortunately diabetes is so high in today’s society. It’s obviously our lifestyle and dietary habits that’s the main factor.

    Gigi 5 years ago

    Diabetes is horrible isnt it? I had it when I was pregnant but now I’m ok? Not sure how that works. But I’m definitely sticking to the salads now.

    Laura 5 years ago

    It’s horrible when our child gets it. I wonder if it is because of our cravings?

    Quincy 5 years ago

    Something that is really good for those with diabetes is sweet potato. It’s tastier than brussel sprouts 😉

  5. Kidsfunkitchen 5 years ago

    Diabetes is definitely an issue in today’s society especially with kids!  I feel like it’s popping up everywhere. It’s important to substitute junk food with healthy alternatives.  Like homemade sweet potato chips and other snacks that are easy to make and easier to enjoy!

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