Did you know that November is Diabetes Awareness Month? And did you know that today, Monday, November 14th, is World Diabetes Day? If you don’t have diabetes, you may be thinking “who cares?”. Well, you should care, and here’s why: 25.8 million people in the US have diabetes. That’s 8.3% of the population. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, and is a major causal factor for heart disease and strokes. And here’s the kicker: another 79 MILLION PEOPLE have pre-diabetes, and if they don’t take control of it now, it will almost inevitably lead to full-blown diabetes. Not to get all fearmongering on you, but you may be one of those people. I was, and I didn’t even know it. And if I hadn’t gotten accidentally pregnant with my third child and been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I might not have found out until it was too late.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself “yes, well, I live a healthy lifestyle, I am fit and eat well, and I have no family history of diabetes, so I am really not at risk”. Guess what? Me too! Based on my lifestyle, slender physique and family history, I had NO RISK FACTORS. None. Nada. Nyet. Nein. My body type and health status set off so few alarm bells in my doctors that I’d only ever had my blood glucose tested during pregnancy, as is standard in most areas. And it was a surprise to everyone when gestational diabetes turned up with my third pregnancy. An even bigger shock came a few months after my daughter was born, when I noticed a disturbing upward trend in my glucose levels. Everyone expected the gestational diabetes to disappear, especially as I made a serious commitment to healthy eating and exercise. But to my dismay, both my fasting glucose and my post-prandial (post-meal) numbers remained stubbornly in the pre-diabetes range. What??? But I was being so good, avoiding sugar and eating lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains! It wasn’t until I dropped my carb levels drastically that I gained any measure of control over my glucose levels.
Far be it from me to preach to other people about how they eat and the amount of exercise they get, because goodness knows I don’t always stay on track. But Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in our society and it behooves us all to pay attention. I consider myself lucky. I caught my disease in the early stages and because of this, I was given the opportunity to control it through diet and exercise and stave off medication as long as possible. So far, it’s working, but diabetes is a progressive disease and I know there may come a day when I need to rely on modern medicine. Technically, I am pre-diabetic, but I suspect this is simply because I am so vigilant about what I eat. Were I to go back to what is considered “normal” healthy eating (fruits, veggies, whole grains), I think by now I’d definitely be a full-blown diabetic.
Strange as it may sound, there are good things that have come out of my diabetes, and this blog is one of them. I started it prior to diagnosis as a lark. I am fairly certain that I would never have stuck with it if it hadn’t become an outlet for me to experiment with low carb cooking and baking. And the blog in turn has led to some wonderful opportunities and connections. One of those connections is to a wonderful online diabetes magazine called A Sweet Life. Started by husband and wife team Jessica Apple and Michael Aviad after they were both diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in adulthood, A Sweet Life posts informative, thought-provoking articles, personal accounts, and healthful recipes. They approached me last February, asking if they could post my Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Truffles on their site. They also asked if I wanted to do a feature article on how diabetes has changed my approach to cooking, baking and eating (Rebirth of a Baker). In time I became a contributor, posting some of my best, healthiest recipes to their site. I also have come to consider Jessica a friend, as we have shared our experiences with diabetes, parenthood and life in general in much of our correspondence.
A connection such as this is invaluable to me in helping me navigate my own way around this disease. And I am so honored that for World Diabetes Day, they are featuring another of my recipes as well as doing a little write-up about my own experiences with diabetes. This is such an easy dish, I almost hesitate to actually call it a recipe. I came up with it over the summer when the tomatoes and cilantro from our garden were so plentiful, I was making jar after jar of Pico De Gallo. I was stumped one evening for dinner when my eye fell upon a jar of this beloved salsa in the fridge. I quickly defrosted some tilapia fillets, sprinkled them with chipotle powder, and cooked them in some butter. I sprinkled them with shredded cheddar when they were hot, to let it melt, and then topped them with the fresh Pico De Gallo.
And the results were so good, I was blown away. The flavours all worked so perfectly together, the fresh cold salsa complementing the warm, spicy fish. It quickly became something I made over and over during the summer and well into the fall, when the tomatoes were still ripening. My husband likes to put his into a tortilla, like fish tacos, but I like to eat mine just with a salad. I really can’t say enough about how good this recipe is.
So please, head on over to A Sweet Life to check it out. You won’t regret it.
And please take a moment to think about diabetes today, on World Diabetes Day, and to think about what it means for you and your loved ones.