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PCRM’s Native American Diabetes Prevention Classes Focus on Ancestral Foods

corn and squash

PCRM launched its Native American Cooking and Eating to Beat Diabetes program in 2010. The classes are such a success that one of the instructors was recently featured on Native America Calling, a radio show reaching half a million listeners in the United States and Canada.

The June 28 “Art of Diabetes Cooking” show featured PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., and instructor and chef Lois Ellen Frank, Ph.D. One in five Native Americans adults has diabetes. But Barnard and Frank emphasized that a plant-based diet can prevent and treat type 2 diabetes—and is similar to the diet enjoyed by the ancestors of many Native Americans.

Returning to an ancestral plant-based diet is a way to reclaim our health. The foods that many native communities ate in the past included corn, beans, and squash, known as ‘The Three Sisters.’ Wild-harvested roots, vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, beans, and herbs were also enjoyed,” says Frank, who is Kiowa. “These provided a healthy diet, low in fat and high in nutrients.”

The program, based on meals created from foods on the Power Plate, was designed by physicians, diabetes educators, registered dietitians, and local professional chefs. While enjoying delicious foods, participants explore a modern approach to ancestral foods that may put them in control of their diabetes. Several of Frank’s recipes are featured on the Power Plate site.

“Research shows type 2 diabetes can be controlled and its progression reversed with a varied and balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes,” says Caroline Trapp, M.S.N., C.D.E., PCRM director of diabetes education and care. “It has been gratifying to see so many people benefit from these classes.”

PCRM thanks the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, and the Institute for American Indian Arts, which have all played an important role in the success of this program.

To learn more about preventing diabetes with a plant-based diet, visit


PCRM Online, August 2011

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