Traditional Foods

"Traditional" in the context of these projects means pre-contact foods. No beef, mutton, goat, chicken, pork, milk, butter, cream, wheat flour (no fry bread), rye, barley, okra, black-eyed peas, or any other "Old World" food that many of us have lovingly incorporated into our diets and tribal cultures. No processed foods (Doritoes, Lays Chips, etc), even if the base is corn or potatoes. No chocolate unless it is unsweetened cacao or sweetened with honey from the Melipona bee, fruit, stevia, camas or agave. Be adventurous and try unfamiliar foods! There are many foods to choose from. My American Indian Health and Diet Project site lists and defines many of them.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Back to Regular Eating

Some of my favorite things I can return to: apples, almonds,
dried cherries,
nectarines, pistachios, mango.
A few days have gone by since the end of the Mini Diet Challenge. How did it go?

First, even though I normally consume a great many indigenous foods (corn, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, bananas and squash almost every day), it did require effort to make certain New World foods were available in the house for meals. As much as I like those foods, I felt like my list of foods to chose from was rather short.

Second, it took some real planning on workdays. I couldn't just drop in any restaurant or campus quick cafe and buy some soup, bread or crackers. No sandwiches or wraps. Chinese and Italian food was out, as well as pizza, sushi, and Mexican food that contains cilantro, wheat tortillas, beef, pork and chicken. I made baggies of dried fruit, nuts and seeds, but that mix is high in calories and not particularly filling. Eating a big hunk of turkey from my lunch box was satisfying, but I got tired of that. Water did not satisfy me, either.

Third, this is not a convenient diet. One has to cook a lot of it, unless you like raw vegetables. Sometimes I do, but not all the time.

Fourth, I did feel "lighter" and did not have stomach aches. I am not lactose or gluten intolerant; but, I am sensitive to milk products and especially breads. If you have stomach or intestinal pains, dietitians will tell you to keep a diet log to try and pin-point what it is that is annoying your guts. Now I know for sure.

Fifth, a few people questioned the purpose of the diet. If there are so many healthy choices to chose from today, why limit my diet to only New World foods?

Good question. The purpose of this diet was to show support for Marty and his group. I'm not sure I could do this for an entire year, so I can now certainly empathize with them.

Another goal was to educate ourselves about what our ancestors ate. We can read about the foods in a book, of course, but actually eating the same things (or, as close to the historic foods as we can get) shows how difficult it can be to not only find the food items, but also to combine them in ways our body can best use them. For example, eating only corn for a day is not nutritionally sound. But eating corn combined with other foods such as beans, squash, turkey and fish provides the vitamins and minerals we need.

This also has spurred my interest in how it is very active tribespeople found enough calories. Hunting, gathering, catching/training horses, building homes, moving, playing stickball, running, canoeing, gardening, etc., etc., all required a tremendous amount of energy. If large sources of protein, like buffalo, elk, turkey, salmon, weren't available, what did they eat? Very active men, especially young men, require many calories. Did they instead turn to lots of berries, corn, chia? Or were they very efficient at using every calorie they ingested?
I think that the main goal is to realize that a diet that is comprised of unprocessed and uncontaminated foods, both New and Old World, will provide us with the nutrients we need.

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