i've heard sally fallon (author of nourishing traditions) talk about this, and it's something that's constantly on my mind:
anyone think it's best to eat according to your ethnic background and the traditional foods associated with it? and if so, what do you do when your heritage is thoroughly mixed?
let's say we have three individuals who have all eaten a traditional, whole food diet their entire life.
someone who is scottish might eat mostly cod and oats.
someone who is swiss might eat lots of dairy with some bread.
someone who is polynesian might eat lots of fish and boar and taro and coconut.
but what if they all traded? would that affect their health? or do you think that all traditional diets are equally appropriate for all?
obviously a traditional diet is based on what's immediately available, and obviously people travel.
i just can't help but think that it's "a good idea" to follow one's ancestral eating practices, and so am wondering what others think.
Well, here's my experience: For 13 years I tried to be vegan, and I was lethargic and feeling like crap. One Thanksgiving I succumbed, and the meat hitting my mouth was like Popeye eating spinach. Carbs put me to sleep, make me put on weight. Any kind of sugar, even naturally sweet vegetables, puts me on a roller coaster. Then I read that "eat right for your blood type" book and it all made sense. I come from hunter/gatherer stock. My metaboism is slow, my stomach is high in acids and just ferments grains. A little meat and vegetables and I feel super. Which kind of sucks because that makes it harder for me to be fully sustainable.
I'm not so sure about eating what your great great great great grandparents ate. My ethnic group eats pretty "traditional" and while they still forage a lot, I can't see that there was ever enough protein to be had in these unforgiving rock outcroppings to support many. At some point they settled down and became agrarian and the diet is 50% rice. 40% vegetables, and 10% meat. That's mostly imported meat, and I seriously question how anyone got enough calories in the past. I do okay eating traditional foods, but I eliminate the rice.
When I was young I had the privilege of spending a couple months working with an old man who was raised in a true homestead, the child of a pioneer family of "stump farmers" in Washington State. (the old growth tree trunks were too huge for their mules to remove) He told me how rough life was for everyone back then. Throughout the winter, everyone in the community subsisted off of smoked, spiced, and salted food, and that it was truly ghastly and monotonous: sometimes it wasn't much better than eating salty lard. I think we think of food from our grandparents as nourishing traditions, but really rarely eat what was eaten back before refrigerators...and then if we do it may seem like a treat because we're not forced to eat it every single day all winter long. Kim chi is considered THE traditional food of Korean people for hundreds of years and is constantly praised for its fermented health benefits, yet it is so high in salt it may cancel out the benefit of its active cultures. And Koreans have the highest rates of stomach cancer in the world, which I'm guessing that salt-ulcerated stomach lining irritated with red pepper capsicum probably contributes to. Preservation of limited food stocks back in the day often wasn't very nutritious or varied. I wouldn't want to live off of pickled herring for six months straight, either...
Similarly, I was raised on milk but am lactose-intolerant, though I never figured that out, but who could have imagined back then that most Asians can't process milk sugars? I don't think trading traditions is such a great idea. I wonder how highly processed foods like bread became staples in the first place, not thinking they are the best form of any grain for anybody of any ethnicity, beit ancestor or contemporary.
What you're calling traditional might actually be the recent past, and might not be any better than present day. Traditional doesn't always mean healthier, too. Go further back, and sustaining life was really hard. Protein was probably not a daily privilege.
So I'm speculating it probably depends on how way back your time machine is going...
And my son who is Aboriginal, Scottish, Polish, Russian Norwegian, Ukrainian should eat what exactly?
My friend who is English/ Japanese?
My bro-in-law who is Scottish and Cree?
My point being that there is no such thing as 'ancestral foods' in today's multi ethnic families. It's more important to get enough protein, for example, from sources you tolerate. I can eat almost anything except black beans. I love tofu even though I'm sure not one of my ancestors would have had access to it. It doesn't cause me G.I. problems so I eat it in moderation. Ditto for tempeh, squid, pork, chicken, beef, lamb, fish......
We'll be the water for their fire.
posted 8 years ago
"[T]here is no such thing as 'ancestral foods' in today's multi ethnic families."
exactly the reason i brought this up! i am portuguese, romanian, chinese, german, french, italian, and at least a few other nationalities that my family has completely forgotten over time.
i spend a lot of time trying to figure out what foods i do best with. sometimes it seems like heritage has at least some influence on that, but maybe not.
suki, you make a very strong point about nutrition being so difficult long ago. i didn't think about that - but i wonder if those patterns can/should still be applied today, with the luxury of choice and balance.
maybe so, maybe no!
Several things come to mind. First, there is a valid point to eating what our forefathers had to choose from, but I think it needs to be applied in a broader sense, not so much to a specific food. Suki already commented on the blood type diet and I find a lot of truth in that. Also, for example milk intolerance is common to Asian people - no milk in the diet for a looooong time. That said, for those of us with mixed back grounds it could go 2 ways - either there is so much more to choose from your body will be okay with - or more intolerances/allergies can creep up. I.e. my kids are half Asian, and even though I am coming from a long tradition of diary intake, 2 out of 3 shouldn't have milk products at all.
I totally agree with previous posts that people in the past did not always have access to healthy food or for that matter, food. When I think about this topic, I think more about eating whole foods, or meals put together with ingredients which grew instead of being manufactured or altered to a point where the original plant/animal is not recognizable any more. I am thinking about products like corn syrup, pink slime, artificial colors, and the list goes on.
I absolutely am aligned with that blood type diet in regards to which foods sustain me. But I'm not a purist about it and will enjoy spaghetti now and then, etc. I ruin my balance daily with coffee...
I think there is something to be had for us listening to our cravings. If I'm craving sweets, it's an indicator that I haven't been eating a balanced diet. This is a very serious matter for me because in my teens low blood sugar induced seizures and put me in the hospital. But I find that other cravings are probably based on a NEED. Like that time of the month, I crave meat and water - because I need iron and am dehydrated. Some days I realize I've eaten tons of things with vitamin C, so I must be taking care of a deficiency. Also, I throw away that square meal, figuring it will all balance out in the end. I'm perfectly happy eating something I crave for three days straight. I can't remember what it was, but a study of children eating what they wanted when they wanted proved no loss in nutrition and maybe even better nutrition than a balanced meal. I think harvesting/foraging/hunting was probably similar - feast or fast, searching for what you craved/needed and if scoring some protein one probably feasted in excess on it and were satiated for a good long while.
The 9-5 lifestyle and proscribed lunch time and stress screws with my naturally healthy eating tendencies, and I succumb to convenience and pay the price for it. Not being free to eat/sleep naturally just makes me angry...
So I think listening to your body is really important and then eating what is local and plentiful to try and fill the need you have, which for me just always falls into that outline drawn up by the blood type theory.
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posted 8 years ago
I don't think the term traditional necessarily translates into biological trends in our genetic tolerance or intolerance of foods. I am part Syrian , French , Irish. Who are the Syrians ? Are they genetically different from Greeks or Armenians ? In comparison to biological changes our traditions change much faster. Our cousins walked out of Africa eons ago and have been eating everything imaginable since then. As for me , the French still sing out in my tendency toward diet . Relax and enjoy , life is short. Joie de vivre . Of course I don't want to die from diabetes. But when my time comes , I hope I have just enjoyed an excellent meal. I stopped drinking 15 years ago - but if I knew I would die today I would throw in a bottle of good Cabernet with that last meal too.
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There is a fab book out there on aggression in males, that sparked a big debate in the anthropologists quarters, and at the end of it, they pointed out that prob ALL of us sustained on fruit, nuts and root vegies, with the roots being the the top, because they grow everywhere, store well, and are easy to carry for bipeds with hands.
so try taking the majority of your carbs in from the root veggies of your ethnic continents ?
Then balance with other crops to make complete proteins .
must go hunt now.... scotch/irish potato stalker.
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Well, how far back do you go?
I'm always amazed at how much of diets throughout the world are now based on crops from the Americas. Corn and potatoes especially.
Think of the Irish with no potatoes! Lots of barley you reckon?
My partner says, that's not possible: they digested it many many years ago
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Location: Zone Five, B.C., Western Canada.
posted 8 years ago
Not to mention that there are huge regional differences within countries. Coastal Norwegians ate lots of fish and had greater access to other foods.All the valleys of Norway have unique microclimates and people for countless generations stayed put. Inbreeding and a inland diet of mutton/goat and not much else made for nutritional deficiencies.
"Norwegians" aren't even one group really.
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posted 8 years ago
As far as I know, my genetic heritage is basically Scottish, Welsh, English and Irish, which isn't wildly exciting on the culinary front!
At on point, the Scots were considered one of the healthiest peoples in Europe, when they ate tons of oats.
Now...not so much.
I love Asian, Indian and Mediterranean foods, and I can't imagine a life without chiili, cumin and olive oil.
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