Monday, June 21, 2010

Native Diet Secrets

Have you heard of the Tarahumara? A remote tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahurama are renowned for their skills in endurance running. These native people are known to consume high energy chia seeds as a dietary staple. Chia is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fats, protein and fiber. Chia also promotes satiety (reduces appetite) and fights dehydration due to its unique ability to bind with water in a gel-like matrix that is digested very slowly.

Like the Tarahumara, native people around the world make use of special foods to meet their needs for nourishment and health.

An article in the Spring edition of Publix GreenWise Market Magazine explores the findings of Daphne Miller, M.D., who travelled the world, in the spirit of Weston A. Price, to discover features of native diets. Her new book, The Jungle Effect (Harper Paperbacks, 2009) discusses some of the secrets uncovered in her global journeys.

The book sounds like a fascinating read. You can get a taste for it in this excerpt (below) from the GreenWise magazine article. I think it's so interesting to see what people around the world are eating, don't you?

5 Secrets of Native Diets
Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Spring 2010

Imagine a community of Tarahumara Indians so deeply entrenched in the gorges of Copper Canyon, Mexico, that they’re virtually cut off from the modern world—a community where type 2 diabetes is an unusual occurrence. Now picture a tiny village in the rain forest of Cameroon, where colon disease is practically unheard of.

What do these exotic locales have in common? They’re places where remote, indigenous populations still follow diets that have been passed down through generations. Their inhabitants are far removed from the modern Western lifestyle—and some of the health problems that come with it.

Could it be their native foods, which have sustained indigenous populations for millennia, are deeply connected to their well-being? Daphne Miller, M.D. shares important insights gleaned from the dietary habits of native cultures with low rates of chronic disease.

1. Where: Copper Canyon, Mexico
What: Low rates of type 2 diabetes
Miller’s observations: The Tarahumara Indians eat a diet rich in carbs, but they’re unrefined, low-glycemic carbs. A number of traditional healing spices and plant foods, such as cactus, also have blood-sugar-lowering properties.
Local foods: The tres hermanas (three sisters) of corn, beans and squash, plus eggs, chicken, chiles, nuts, berries, greens, cactus, seeds, oranges, tomatoes, avocado and occasional wild game or fish

2. Where: Crete
What: High rates of good heart health
Miller’s observations: More than 50 years of research has shown the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. By the end of her sojourn, Miller concluded it’s not just one specific food that protects the heart—it’s the whole diet. The people of Crete also eat slowly, use small plates, indulge sparingly in rich foods and eat seasonally.
Local foods: Olive oil, greens, whole grains, grapes

3. Where: Cameroon, western Africa
What: Low rates of colon cancer
Miller’s observations: Fermented foods such as sour milk, relishes, pickled meats and fermented grains are staples of the diet. The fermented foods are rich sources of probiotics—live microorganisms similar to the beneficial bacteria that live in the healthy human gut.
Local foods: Tasty stews flavored with vegetables, legumes, grains, peanuts, spices, wild game meat (used sparingly)

4. Where: Iceland
What: Low rates of depression
Miller’s observations: It’s hard to believe that dark, frigid Iceland boasts very low rates of depression, but the locals eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps combat depression.
Local foods: Miller discovered to her surprise that Icelanders in general do not like vegetables, but they dine regularly on foods such as fish, wild berries and lamb fed on wild forage.

5. Where: Okinawa
What: Longevity; low rates of breast and prostate cancer
Miller’s observations: In addition to eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, the typical Okinawan drinks three cups of green tea a day.
Local foods: Yams, squash, cabbages, greens, papayas, melons, fish, sea vegetables, unrefined soy foods

Click here to read the full article.

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