At 16.1 percent, Native Americans have the highest prevalence of diabetes among all racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
In the 10 years between 1994 and 2004, the rate of diabetes in Native American youth aged 15 to 19 increased by 68 percent. This dramatic increase is owed not only to the fact that Native Americans have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, but also to the disappearance of native foods.
Studies show that traditionally Native American foods, such as yucca, contain protective powers against the disease.
Throughout the twentieth century, the wild foods that had long constituted much of the Native American diet began disappearing from the menu. Today, these foods have largely been replaced with packaged, processed fare.
To exacerbate the issue, numerous Native American reservations are considered food deserts — communities where the nearest grocery store is over a mile away.
To combat this vicious cycle of inadequate food supply and chronic disease, local community leaders are seeking to reintroduce nutritious traditional foods and crops.
Note from Storm: I was especially happy to see this article, since I had just got done making a big batch of yuca con mojo, a Cuban style of fixing cassava (yuca, not to be confused with the yucca plant, as this article apparently does). It’s one of my very favorite dishes, and yuca is easily obtained at local multi-ethnic supermarkets.