Kwanzaa: A Diabetes Friendly Holiday (continue)

Celebration of Health

In the society we live in, with the foods we are used to eating, and the sedentary lifestyle, it is very difficult to stay on track, Sams Allen said. The principle of kujichagulia teaches self-determination. For the person with diabetes, this means being determined to regularly test; being mindful of portions; and defining for yourself how you will manage your diabetes. It is easy to go the way of the world, Samms Allen said, but it takes self-determination to do whats best for your health.

When it comes to food choices, the celebration of Kwanzaa is flexible but participants are urged to use the freshest fruits and vegetables as a symbol of commitment to the holiday in the best way possible.

The traditional feast Karamu is held on the final night of Kwanzaa. Typically, the foods that are served will hail from the culture and/or community of the people celebrating. It could be the soul food of the American South, such as fried chicken, sweet potatoes, greens, and corn bread. There is Island cuisine, such as lentil soup and jambalaya. Then there are the traditional foods of Africa such as yams and okra, or whatever dishes your family holds dear. Karamu is not only a time for cultural expression and unity, but it is a special time for generational recipes to be passed on.

Some of the food choices may include yams or sweet potatoes. Yams are a large, starchy root that is native to Africa and Asia. They are a good source of vitamin B6, which helps the body to break down a substance called homocysteine. Homocysteine can damage blood vessel walls.

Yams or sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are more readily available in American markets. This tuberous root is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and potassium. Vitamin A keeps the skin and eyes healthy while vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Potassium helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure.

Both yams and sweet potatoes are health powerhouses found on the Kwanzaa table, but they are also on the list of higher-carbohydrate veggies, so eat them in moderation and test your blood sugar afterward.

Black-eyed peas and kidney beans (also known as red beans) are two more cultural favorites. They are both rich in fiber, which has been shown to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease and, while beans and legumes are higher in carbs, their fiber content helps mediate the speed and intensity of their impact on blood sugar.

Some vegetables of choice include okra and greens. Okra, another food native to Africa, is a good source of vitamin C, it is low in calories, and it is fat-free. Cooked greens are a source of potassium and vitamin A. Veggies like okra and greens are great for you and very low in carbohydrates, so fill your plate!

Whatever foods you choose to celebrate Kwanzaa, be sure to test your blood sugar often and, if in doubt, talk to a registered dietitian to select the best foods for your diabetes management plan. With a little planning and application of the principles, each day of Kwanzaa can also be a celebration of your diabetes life and the opportunity to have a positive impact on the diabetes community as a whole.

Ashe! (A-shay) - It is done!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 12/19/07.

The Official Kwanzaa Web Site. Accessed 12/19/07.

Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08

Page: 1 | 2

Last Modified Date: February 16, 2013

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