Decolonize Your Diet

Love your Mexican food? Traditional indigenous food from Mexico is misunderstood in the U.S.—and is actually among the world’s healthiest.


Published:

Pre-colonist cuisine was entirely gluten-free, dairy-free, and meat and fish were used sparingly, as a condiment.

Say “Mexican food” and many people have images of fried foods, smothered in cheese, with plenty of sour cream. It’s delicious food but not considered particularly healthy cuisine that fights diseases. Two professors in the San Francisco Bay Area, however, believe traditional, indigenous food from Mexico (available before the Spanish colonists arrived) is misunderstood and is actually among the world’s healthiest foods.

It all started when Luz Calvo, professor of ethnic studies at Cal State East Bay, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. Her research led her to discover that Mexican women have some of the world’s lowest breast cancer rates. And that immigrant Latinas had lower breast cancer rates than non-immigrant Latinas.

She began researching early Mexican foods extensively with her partner Catriona Rueda Esquibel, associate professor in race and resistance studies at San Francisco State University.

Together, they have written Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing. The cookbook combines ancient wisdom with modern-day conveniences, using lesser-known ingredients such as jicama, nopales, and chayotes in creative ways. But it’s more than that.

The book is also a well-researched “love letter” to all the abuelas (grandmothers) out there, who have kept alive these culinary traditions for thousands of years. Recently, Luz spoke with me about traditional Mesoamerican cuisine, and how returning to these culinary roots can improve many people’s health and well-being. (Don’t miss the recipe at the end!)


Teresa O’Connor: Researching traditional Mesoamerican cuisine became very important for you, Luz, after your breast cancer diagnosis. What were some of the most surprising things you learned?

Luz Calvo: I was quite concerned that one day my cancer would return, so I turned to research to learn about cancer-fighting foods. I found that there are so many phytochemicals in foods that help the body fight cancer. For example, anthocyanins (found in blueberries and both blue and purple corn) have powerful anticarcinogenic properties. Mesoamerican peoples grew many different kinds and colors of corn.

From reading the research, I became convinced of the importance of recovering the rich biodiversity of foods and learning about the potential of phytochemicals to prevent disease and increase my own chance of living a long life. Of course, I’m careful to explain that I am not advocating treating cancer exclusively with food, but there is no doubt in my mind that eating a plant-rich diet can help prevent many diseases.

O’Connor: Tell us about the Latina/o Immigrant Paradox. How did this information influence your research?

Calvo: Public health scholars have published hundreds of studies that prove recent immigrants from Mexico arrive in overall good health. These immigrants have low rates of overall mortality and incredibly low rates of infant mortality. Unfortunately, this good health declines after living in the United States for a long time, and the next generation (those born here) have the same poor health as others of similar socio-economic status in the U.S.

The Latino/a Immigrant Paradox led us to look carefully at the health knowledge and practices that immigrants bring with them—especially knowledge about food, recipes, remedios (home remedies), and so forth.

The Latino/a Immigrant Paradox is powerful, because it shows that one does not need to be rich to have good health. But one does need to be connected to ancestral knowledge and culture. Sadly, because of racism in the U.S., this ancestral Mexican knowledge is neither recognized nor valued.

O’Connor: How did pre-colonist Mexican cuisine differ from what many of us consider “Mexican food” today?

Calvo: Well, today’s Mexican restaurant food often features beef, pork, cheese, sour cream, and white flour. Many dishes are fried or cooked in oil. Pre-colonist cuisine was entirely gluten-free, dairy-free, and meat and fish were used sparingly, as a condiment.

Food was not fried, but was instead boiled, steamed, or cooked on a comal (a clay griddle). Nixtamalized corn was the basis of the diet, supplemented with beans and squash.

In addition, Mesoamerican people ate a wide array of wild greens. The nahuatl word for edible wild greens is quelitl. When the Spaniards arrived, the word changed to quelite. Quelites are still foraged in communities both in the U.S. and Mexico. Some of these prized foraged greens are lamb’s quarters, purslane, and watercress, but also include lesser-known greens such as romeritos and huazontles.

O’Connor: How can today’s Latinas/os return to their cultures’ food roots for physical and spiritual connection?

Calvo: We encourage young Latinxs to engage their oldest relatives in conversations about the old ways to try to recover family knowledge and traditions. Sometimes, our elders don’t know the value of their knowledge. They think the old ways are no longer useful now that there are supermarkets, fast food restaurants, and Western doctors.

We should engage our elders in these conversations and value their knowledge. There is something very powerful about realizing that the tamales we eat today have been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. This is just one example among many of indigenous knowledge that has been kept alive via family recipes. Cooking traditional foods is a way to honor our ancestors.

O’Connor: What worries you most about today’s food system? What inspires you most?

Calvo: I’m mostly worried that we are developing a two-tiered system. Folks with money, especially here in the Bay Area, have access to beautiful organic produce and have the time to cook life-affirming meals. Meanwhile, poor folks are put in an impossible situation, trying to find ways to feed their families with scant access to produce but ready access to cheap, processed food.

That said, I’m inspired by all my neighbors who grow food in their front yards, in pots, and on balconies. In our neighborhood, a Mexican family grows chayote and nopales in their front yard, and their Chinese neighbors grow goji berries by their chain link fence and bok choy in plastic buckets.

We know that communities of color have been growing food for their families in urban environments for decades, long before it became “hip.”


From Decolonize Your Diet: Recipe For Alegría Power Bar (page 232)

We think this is one of the original “power bars.” These amaranth treats date back to before the Conquest, when they were shaped into many forms, such as skulls, toys, and mountains.

Alegrías are sold today as bars or discs in Mexico City’s tianguis, or open-air markets. The combination of nuts, seeds, and amaranth make this a high-protein breakfast.

Note: A candy thermometer is used in this recipe.

3 1/2 cups (830 mL) popped amaranth seeds
1/2 cup (125 mL) raw hulled pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup (125 mL) raw hulled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped peanuts
1/2 cup (125 mL) dried currants
1 cup (250 mL) raw local honey
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, combine popped amaranth with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and currants. In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, cook honey and salt until mixture starts to foam up. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly and watching pan so that honey doesn’t foam over, until the temperature of the honey reads 300°F (150°C) on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Working quickly, pour the honey over amaranth mixture and stir with a nonstick spatula to evenly coat. Spread amaranth mixture onto prepared cookie sheet, place another sheet of parchment on top and press down firmly to compress mixture. Then use a rolling pin to press mixture into a rectangular slab about 10 x 12 in (25 x 30 cm) and about ½ in (1 cm) thick. With a knife or pastry wheel, cut into rectangles about 4 x 2 in (10 cm x 5 cm) (and save trimmings as a tasty cook’s treat).

Refrigerate for 2 hours. Then wrap bars in parchment paper. Store bars in airtight container in refrigerator.

Teresa O’Connor wrote this article for UC Food Observer. Teresa is the assistant editor of UC Food Observer. A former journalist, she has written and spoken about food trends, edible gardening and sustainability for national magazines, leading industry events and well-known brand names. Trained as a master gardener in California and Idaho, Teresa has written for both states’ extension services about food gardening.

This article was originally published by UC Food Observer. It was edited for YES! Magazine.

See also:
Eat Your Lamb’s Quarter, Don’t Weed It!
Urban Foraging: Weeds You Can Eat

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

October 23, 2017

An hour after midnight the Sun enters Scorpio, the sign of transformation, death, rebirth and other secrets of life. If we look carefully at nature during autumn we can find seeds already formed, waiting patiently for next year’s growing season…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

October 2017

Christine Lynn Stormer-Fryer, international presenter and author of Language Of The Feet and the Reflexology Definitive Guide is coming to New Hampshire! She will be presenting a combination of her...

Cost: $185 before August 1st / $220 after Aug 1

Where:
Sole Tranquility Reflexology within Palliativity
116 South River Road D2
Located within Palliativity Medical Group
Bedford, NH  03110
View map »


Sponsor: Sole Tranquility Reflexology
Telephone: 603-557-5163
Contact Name: Andrea Montgomery
Website »

More information

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

While many people are familiar with homeopathy as a useful, inexpensive too for treating injuries and acute ailments at home, many are not aware of the breadth of its use in treating other...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
View map »


Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Contact Name: The Studio at One Earth
Website »

More information

October 23 - 29, 2017 ISTA Level 1 Retreat. Experiential week-long training. If you are ready to radically enliven your sexuality and dive deep into the heart of your wild erotic nature, then...

Where:
Angel's Rest Retreat Center
Leyden, MA


Sponsor: Matooka Moonbear
Telephone: 413-204-0314
Website »

More information

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Nancy's therapeutic and healing nature stems from her own personal journey through health struggles. Her style is open to everyone, no matter physical or mental challenges, or age....

Cost: $15 drop in or $12 with 10 class bundle

Where:
HeartSong Spiritual Wellness
23 Pine Street
Milford, MA  01757
View map »


Sponsor: HeartSong Spiritual Wellness Center
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

One-of-a-kind, life changing holistic health education program again being offered free of charge Local business owner shares groundbreaking mind-body-spirit course to combat obesity epidemic...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park
#4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Beginner Kripalu Yoga with Lisa Davidson Brand new to yoga or returning after a break, this class is kind and challenging for your body, relaxing and destressing for your mind, and will help you...

Cost: $113 for 7 weeks

Where:
A Yoga Leaf
@ Whimsy
686 Worcester Rd.
Framingham, MA  01702
View map »


Sponsor: Lisa Davidson
Contact Name: Lisa Davidson
Website »

More information

A unique divine healing meditation, lead by Bhavna, to help you in your life; with your relationships, money, work and family. Also, the meditation helps with letting go to release...

Cost: $10

Where:
Bhavna’s Wellness Group
512 Main St.
Penthouse Suite
Shrewsbury, MA  01545
View map »


Sponsor: Bhavna’s Wellness Group
Telephone: 508-970-5620
Contact Name: Krista Bennett
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Let’s connect to the deck... Do you have the desire to understand and get a deeper sense of your readings? Learn how to read for yourself and others. Clear your cards, enhance your...

Cost: $40

Where:
YOUnity Yoga & Wellness
189 Main Street
4th floor
Milford, MA  01757
View map »


Sponsor: YOUnity Yoga & Wellness
Telephone: 508-478-3333
Contact Name: Barbara Hickson
Website »

More information

October 25, 2017 - January 19, 2020 The most comprehensive education of craniosacral therapy available. Open to professionals as well as those without any prior training as practitioners....

Where:
Dr. Kate’s Cranial School
376 Pleasant Street
Northampton, MA
View map »


Telephone: 413-221-8454
Contact Name: Dr. Kate Klemer
Website »

More information

This gentle yoga class is good for all skill levels. Scheduled perfectly in the middle of your week; the movements will be a welcome respite to your usual morning routine.

Cost: $10

Where:
Bhavna’s Wellness Group
512 Main St.
Penthouse Suite
Shrewsbury, MA  01545
View map »


Sponsor: Bhavna’s Wellness Group
Telephone: 508-970-5620
Contact Name: Krista Bennett
Website »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Are you ready to embrace more self-compassion and nurturing into your life? Take the plunge now! This 6 week group will weave yoga, creative arts, meditation, journaling and...

Cost: $180

Where:
Integrated Psychotherapy
31 Hastings Street
Mendon, MA  01756
View map »


Telephone: 508-335-6732
Contact Name: Sherri Snyder, MA, LMHC
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

The Smoking Cessation Program at Leapin' Lizards, Portland is comprised of a few very different phases. This program puts you in charge of when you quit and enables you to stop smoking without...

Cost: $111

Where:
Leapin' Lizards
449 Forest Avenue
Portland , ME
View map »


Sponsor: Barbara Foss, CH

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Learn Reiki to awaken your healing hands to bring greater health and happiness to yourself, your loved ones and pets. A one-day training facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (Master...

Cost: $125

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Learn Reiki to awaken your healing hands to help yourself, your loved ones and pets be healthier and happier. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (master teacher) This one-day...

Cost: $125

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Join us for 75 minutes of an amazing sound bath meditation. This healing session can be an unforgettable experience for those who seek deep relaxation, rejuvenation and an acceleration of their...

Cost: $20 early payment by Oct. 20 or $25

Where:
YOUnity Yoga & Wellness
189 Main Street
4th floor
Milford, MA  01757
View map »


Sponsor: YOUnity Yoga & Wellness
Telephone: 508-478-3333
Contact Name: Barbara Hickson
Website »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Reiki I Certification or re-attunement to Reiki I included. Looking for ways to clear, balance, connect, and restore your energy? Join us for this day-long retreat where we engage the tools...

Cost: $140 includes lunch

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-969-8968
Contact Name: Brian Serven
Website »

More information

Visit the Spiritual JuJu Community at The Village Psychic Fair. All things Metaphysical: vendors, readings, healing. www.TheVillagePsychics.com www.spiritualjuju.com

Where:
The Yard Restaurant
1211 S Mammoth Road
Manchester, NH
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual JuJu Community
Website »

More information

Still feeling held back by a traumatic event of the past? Despite your Reiki abilities, do you sometimes feel stuck or held back by old limiting thoughts and patterns from a...

Cost: $90

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

All are welcome! No prior experience or class attendance is necessary. In this class we will discuss angel communication, spirit teacher/guide communication and mediumship communication. We will...

Cost: $35

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Center
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
View map »


Telephone: 978-877-8651
Contact Name: Pamela Dussault Runtagh
Website »

More information

Make teas, syrups, shrubs and sprinkles. $40 drop in. $30 each with a friend and $60 off to sign up for the series. Please email rjrcnm@gmail.com if interested.  Hillside Herbals offers...

Cost: $40 drop in. $30 each with a friend and $60 off to sign up for the series.

Where:
Opening Lotus Yoga
456 Main Street
Holden, MA  01520
View map »


Sponsor: Hillside Herbals
Telephone: 508-847-8615
Contact Name: Rachel Ross
Website »

More information

*As seen in New York Magazine's “The Cut,” Ynet News, Timeout New York, Metro, and others. https://tantrany.com/tantra-speed-date/?region=bos&aff=spiritofchange Tired of...

Cost: $35 - $60

Where:
Arts at the Armory
191 Highland Ave
Somerville, MA  02143
View map »


Sponsor: The Tantra Institute
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags