The United States of America acquired Puerto Rico after the Spanish American War in 1898. Prior to becoming a US territory, it was a major exporter of coffee, tobacco and sugar cane. A lovely group of islands in the turquoise Caribbean Sea, today Puerto Rico has higher rates of cancer and diabetes than any other US citizens do. Puerto Ricans are subject to a whole host of problems related to low income and education levels, limited access to healthcare and oddly enough their limited ability to speak English. To say that they have fallen under the influence of the Standard American Diet (SAD) is putting it lightly. On the mainland, access to American fast food restaurants is prevalent, which only fosters higher rates of diabetes and cancer. Their healthy, traditional diets of rice, beans, locally caught fish and locally farmed fruits/veggies can still be found, but American food is sadly everywhere. Speaking with a few local people helped me to understand some of these troubles and how they relate to the food choices available to them. Living on an island, fresh produce isn't always readily available, but I was happy to see they are proud of their traditional foods and work to incorporate them in all sorts of creative ways from decadent coffees to rice and bean dishes served with local fish and plantains. We can and should look to Puerto Rico for delicious and nutritious menu ideas!
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