Ethnocentric Diets

Sorry, this is just a bit of frustration I have in finding any government diet guides for non-caucasians.  They exist but they are really just caucasian (most of Europe and the Middle East) diets with some other ‘ethnic’ foods added.  No consideration for different metabolic needs, just a preference for rice vs bread.

It is hardly surprising that different groups of people have different dietary needs.  However, any government initiated program for First Nations peoples I have found ignores this. 

Diabetes is a huge problem for our First Nations peoples.  When Europeans arrived, many of the First Nations were exceptionally tall and in very good physical condition.  Europeans introduced many things such as smallpox, but it is diabetes and other obesity-related conditions that are the biggest causes of death now.  I have read a few studies and personal stories of reversing obesity and diabetes by Natives following a more traditional diet. 

I am looking for a simple meal plan and food guide (pyramid or rainbow) that actually realizes that peoples decended from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle metabolize food differently.   If one is a hunter-gatherer, s/he needs to be able to digest wild foods and have a flexible metabolism.  This is a high fibre, high protein, high fat diet.  Low starch.  You couldn’t just round up bannock or mashed potatoes on the prairies 120 years ago.

If one comes from a group of people that have been agrarian for millenia, then you could expect such a person to be able to digest well domesticated grains and tubers and perhaps dairy products.   They need more carbohydrates and less animal fats than their hunter-gatherer cousins (less flexible metabolisms). 

So, why does the ‘First Nations’ food guide not take into consideration that 100% of adult Natives cannot digest milk?  Or that their blood sugar is easily disrupted by starches but saturated fats don’t have the same problems? 

For a people whose traditional diet was 65% meat, 15% wild plants and only 20% domesticated veggies and grains, recommending them to eat 65% grains is a recipe for diabetes.  And why recommend 2-3 servings of dairy?  They cannot digest it!  Most of us can’t.

And why are ‘traditional’ Native foods mostly food introduced by the Europeans?

The only Native thing I can find in this is the eagle, the wild rice, and the elk on the meat section.  Not impressed.  This is an apple for sure.  (Red on the outside, pure white on the inside.)

Has anyone noticed a particular diet that works best for them?  I often crave meat but can live without bread and potatoes.  My lover however needs a high carb diet.  Lil’T is trying to convince me she needs a high icecream diet.

12 thoughts on “Ethnocentric Diets

  1. D'Ma says:

    I agree with Lil’T. A high ice cream diet seems to work best for me! 🙂

  2. ... Zoe ~ says:

    Anti-inflammatory diets are what works for me. (By diet I don’t mean anything that helps me lose weight. I’m skinny. Always have been, always will be.)

  3. Ahab says:

    I find that plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables make me feel my best. Beets, for some reason, have the most powerful effect.

  4. I just happened to be listening to a radio show today which was discussing a similar topic. While not specifically focused on ethnicity, the guy being interviewed was making some interesting points about why we gain weight. In fact, I think he was the author of a book called Why We Gain Weight.

    Anyway, he was saying that government meal plans are not well thought out, and really not scientifically tested. He noted that skinny people, like myself and Zoe, have fundamentally different metabolisms, our diets should not be examined for what works. (I tend to be carb-heavy myself.)

    He was making a similar point to you, that for many people, diets high in grains stressed insulin production too much to the point of promoting diabetes, making the U.S. old food pyramid and the new plate meal plan not good. He was saying, like what you were, about high protein and high fat, but that it was still hard to get people to overcome their stigma about eating fat.

    This guy also had a bone to pick with fruits, because they are so high in sugar. He claimed that people who tended to hold excess or gain weight easily should eat fruit sparingly or avoid it altogether.

    • prairienymph says:

      I was very disillusioned after studying Nutrition through the College of Pharmacy. Half of the professors were overweight themselves and there was a silently enforced taboo on topics like different metabolisms needing different diets or the need for individual supplementation. I was also sad to discover that much of the food guide was based on reactions to fads in the weight loss industry. When I was there they were pushing high carbs in reaction to the high protein Atkins craze and many of the graduates went on to work with First Nations communities.

      Glad to hear that there are authors like that. You are like my husband I think. So my guess is that your muscles are also long and unbulky and can have almost endless endurance if you have enough snacks. I’ve read studies on muscle fibre type ratios affecting what fuels one can metabolize.

      Zoe, my mom has changed her diet to please her now that all us kids are gone and my dad has discovered a love of cooking. Her diet is also anti-inflammatory and high in plant fats like avocado. Most of my family is naturally trim also, although some didn’t hit a healthy balance until going off wheat which is inflammatory for a lot of people. Can you handle wheat?

      I find it interesting that in many ‘traditional’ diets around the world fruits were not eaten alone but with animal fat or in a high fibre dish. Then their sugars wouldn’t cause insulin spikes and crashes. But fruit with icecream is so good, right D’ma 😉

      Ahab, beets are high in sugars but also in minerals. Especially iron. If you don’t get much meat it could be your body especially needs that. I think our bodies are smarter that we realize.

      Sorry, I love to talk about this stuff even though I dislike most actual cooking and eating.

  5. Sarge says:

    I have noticed what you noticed as to the different ethnic types of food.

    I was stationed with an Aleut and and Inuit for a time, and we talked about this sort of thing, “good” food. A mucktuck (spelling is uncertain) diet for about three years would polish off most of us caucasians.

    Still, I met a missionary who had served somewhere in Canada among Inuit who ate that diet for forty years.
    He missed it.
    Said on a cold day there was nothing better to warm you up that rotten bird or fish.
    Yes, he was serious.

    What I ate in Ethiopia with the “indiginous” folks makes me cringe now, but back then, it got appetising after the third day with no other prospect in sight.

    • prairienymph says:

      I bet it was easier for you to adjust to an Ethiopian diet than for an Ethiopian to enjoy an American diet 🙂 At least, that is what my cousin who lived there said once you got past being fed by someone else for fancy meals. What is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten? Bet you have lots of stories.

      The Chinese believe you need to adjust your diet for climate and all foods are ‘hot’ or ‘cold’. I do want more heavy foods in winter, but rotten bird?

      Of all the places I’ve been, I’ve eaten the local food but ate more veggies than starches or sweets than the others around me. The only place I ever gained weight was the summer I spent in North Carolina and that was the only place where I ate exactly what the people I lived with ate. Grits, Sweet tea, sweet everything were a bad combination. On my grandparent’s farm I eat slabs of fried pork fat, lots of butter and cream, and other farm-grown foods. Didn’t affect me like the sugars did.

  6. Sarge says:

    Doesn’t seem odd to me, particularly, but others have assured me that this is outre”: when I was in South America I ate some sloth once. What did it taste like? Well, about how you’d expect a sloth to taste, I suppose. Giant ant eater, too, near the same place. Didn’t care for it.

    My one daughter-in-laws family comes from Jamaica, and her mother cooks the good Jamaican style. They moved to Canada, and in her youth she lived in The Maritimes and cooked their cuisine. At her table I have dined on many things, including cod cheeks, salt pork stew (my blood pressure meds were really swimming upstream and battling the current after THAT meal), and seal flipper pie. Made with real seal flippers. Where she got them and how she got them to North Carolina I have no idea, won’t even ask. She picks up a lot of her supploes when she goes “home” to Toronto.
    Lots of stuff with cod and salt pork, though.

    I, too have relatives in North Carolina, showed horses there, lived in Virginia and Alabama, travelled in Tennesee, West Virginia. The food is comparable.

    I am a civil war reenactor, and our group meets a lot of people during the years, including foreign tourists.
    I have often been asked my many of them, where do they get the REAL American food, meet REAL Americans in their own milieus, not eat corporation, franchise food or even a privately owned restaurant offering.
    I tell them to ask at where they are staying, where a church is having a “dinner on the grounds” or a fire house is serving a meal.
    Go to church (ya gotta sing for yer supper), enjoy talking to folks, enjoy the meal. Leave a “love offering”.
    I’ve run across some of these people again and they said they thought it was some of the best travel advice they ever got. And, they went home with recipes!

    One thing I tried once and will never try again: lutefisk. With lutefisk, ‘nough said.

  7. Ahab says:

    Sarge — I’ve heard lutefisk described as akin to “fish-flavored jello.” Is that an accurate description of the flavor and texture? Fish soaked in lye doesn’t sound appealing, and neither does fishy jello-y stuff.

  8. prairienymph says:

    Thanks. The second one in particular was helpful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s