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Part 2: HLC Diabetes Prevention: Cooking Class – Class Learns Merits of Plant-Based Diet

The Healthy Living Center’s Diabetes Prevention class, led by Dr. Olivia Newby, focuses on the importance of blood pressure and weight management in addressing diabetes. Participants learn the impact of elevated blood sugar on health and the potential benefits of a plant-based diet. Dr. Newby emphasizes the role of medication, lifestyle changes, and cultural perceptions of body weight. The class also features practical cooking sessions with Chef Patricia Louis, creating dishes like cabbage with colors and coleslaw with oil and vinegar.

#DiabetesPrevention #PlantBasedCooking #HealthyLiving #BloodPressure #WeightManagement #HealthEducation

Wednesday, January 17, 2024, marked the second week of the Healthy Living Center’s Diabetes Prevention: Plant Based Cooking Class taught by Dr. Olivia Newby of Primary Care Specialists located in Norfolk, VA. The previous week served as an introduction to the four-week course where participants learned the basics of what diabetes does to the body and how a plant-based diet can alleviate diabetic issues or even reverse the disease. This can result in little to no medication. So, what is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that affects how your body processes sugar. Elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), over time will lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Uncontrolled blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight can cause cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. Newby stated, “Two out of three people with diabetes die of heart disease or stroke. If you have diabetes, you are four times as likely to have a stroke as someone who does not have diabetes. If you smoke that just gives you double the risk.”

This week blood pressure and weight were the main topics. Blood pressure and weight are the two components that participants will focus on each week. Dr. Newby says that blood pressure and weight are the two things we want to see change during the four weeks. Prior to the start of class everyone has their blood pressure and weight taken. Dr. Newby explained that a person is diagnosed with high blood pressure when their blood pressure is consistently over 130 over 80.

“Your blood pressure is the first step to making sure we are not at risk for cardiovascular disease or heart disease which is one of the components of congestive heart failure.” She shared that 45 percent of adults have high blood pressure. 54 percent of Blacks compared to whites have high blood pressure. Four percent of adolescents have high blood pressure and as we age 75 percent of adults have high blood pressure. Along with blood pressure weight is another key area the doctor says we want to observe to change.

The group discussed the stigma of what our body type culturally should be. “Blacks often become comfortable with their weight because everyone in the family looks the same so it’s normal, and no one stands out. However, we will also notice that our family members as they age are having health issues,” said Newby. She added that “Losing one pound of body weight takes four pounds of pressure off your knees. Also, that one pound of weight loss significantly lowers blood pressure as well.”

Next Newby asked for a praise report from the participants on the changes they made in the past week. Some shared how they avoided fast food restaurants, increased their daily steps, read their food labels, and lost a few inches around their waist. Newby told the group if they have not had any changes to blood pressure or weight during the week to consider whether you have been taking your medication. “It’s so common for people to say ‘Oh I don’t need that medicine’ but taking your medication is such an easy control of your blood pressure and diabetes if you are not exercising or changing your diet,” said Newby. When patients Dr. Newby ask how long they have to be on their medications. Her reply is “As long as it takes for you to change your eating and exercising habits.”

This week in the kitchen with Chef Patricia Louis the class made two dishes, cabbage with colors and coleslaw with oil and vinegar. The cabbage with colors dish included green cabbage, a yellow or red pepper, a white onion, a pinch of salt, pepper, and roasted tomatoes. The dish was sauteed with only the oil from the roasted tomatoes and an optional vegetable broth. The coleslaw was made with green cabbage, purple cabbage, a carrot, and a red onion sliced into designated sizes. The dressing for the coleslaw included olive oil, vinegar, a pinch of salt, pepper, thyme, celery seed, and Dijon mustard. All the ingredients were mixed to make a tasty coleslaw.

Participants left class with their cabbage and coleslaw in tote and two new ingredients to add to their cooking tool kit a jar of roasted tomatoes and Dijon mustard to make a zesty dressing. The class is entering its third week of plant-based cooking with more health education and new recipes to come.

The class is free and open to the public. If you are interested in attending the Diabetes Prevention: Plant Based cooking class you can register for the next session at, call (757) 622-0542, or email for more information.


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