Native American Influences

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The size and varied geogrophy of the North American continent meant that different foods were available to people living in different locations. Some of these people wee hunter – gatherers, depending on wild vegetation and wild game for subsistence. Others learned to grow vegetable crops. Depending on where they lived, Native American groups cultivated early forms of such plant foods as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, vanila, and cocoa. Their diets tended to be low in sodium and fat and high in fiber. In the for north, populations subsisted on fish, sea mammals, other game, and a few plants, such as seaweed, willow leaves, and berries.

Studies have shown that the diseases that affected these societies differed significantly from the diseases common in North American society today. For example, Alaskan natives who still eat the traditional diet have cardiovascular disease rates lower than those in the general North American population. Younger generations of Alaskan natives, however, who usually do not eat the traditional diet, have developed cardiovascular disease at rates similar to North Americans in general. This is also true of the Pima Indian tribe in Arizona. These and other studies indicate that, as societies become more uniform, so, too, do disease patterns.


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