Shaped by glacial temperatures, stark landscapes and protracted winters, the traditional Inuit diet had little in the way of plant food, no agricultural or dairy products, and was unusually low in carbohydrates. Most people subsisted on what they hunted and fished.
Patricia Cochran, an Inupiat from Northwestern Alaska describes her food culture:
Our meat was seal and walrus, marine mammals that live in cold water and have lots of fat. We used seal oil for our cooking and as a dipping sauce for food. We had moose, caribou, and reindeer. We hunted ducks, geese, and little land birds like quail called ptarmigan. We caught crab and lots of fish – salmon, whitefish, tomcod, pike, and char. Our fish were cooked, dried, smoked, or frozen. We ate frozen raw whitefish, sliced thin. The elders liked stinkfish, fish buried in seal bags or cans in the tundra and left to ferment. And fermented seal flipper, they liked that too.
These foods hardly make up the “balanced” diet most of us grew up with, and they look nothing like the mix of grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy we’re accustomed to seeing in conventional food pyramid diagrams. Yet how can people who gorge on fat and animal protein be healthier than we are? (more…)