Topics covered in this section
SPIRITUALITY OF FOOD
THE IMPACT OF COLONIZATION On indigenous food practices
making the shift to an ancestral-based diet
Identifying Ancestral foods
IDENTIFYING HARMFUL foods
alkaline vs acidic foods
cheat meals over cheat days
eating disorders & Food addiction
PRACTICES TO ADOPT
THE GROCERY STORE
Eating on the road
pros and cons of SUPPLEMENTS
WHAT IS ANCESTRAL eating?
Re-Indigenizingfood preparation and consumption is about restoring the spiritual, mental, physical and emotional wellness of the people. Ancestral eating is a growing movement across Native country as well as other parts of the world. Some recognize it as Decolonizing Diet, Ancestral Diet, or Tribal Food Sovereignty. In short, following an ancestral diet means eating wholesome, natural, organic Indigenous foods – just like our ancestors did for thousands of years.
Since time immemorial, food has been at the center of the Indigenous cultures of turtle island. Through hunting, gathering and agriculture, meats and plants were hand processed in several different ways. Harvest ceremonies were done, songs were sang, dances were danced and words of giving thanks were recited in great depth to all the plants and animals who sacrificed their lives to nurture our existence. Indigenous peoples were dependent on the natural cycles of mother earth and the great spirit. Being in alignment with those natural spiritual and physical forces was a way of life of our ancestors that has brought us this far as nations.
Colonization led our people to believe that Western medicine, foods and technology would improve our health. In fact, the overall health and wellbeing of the people was vastly superior prior to the introduction of Western toxins. Euro-American culture has furthermore influenced our people to devalue the spirituality of food, ultimately leading to the deterioration of our people's health and our traditional social structures that were held intact by community and family agriculture, hunting, and gathering.
Spirituality of Food
Today we can reestablish optimum health of individuals, families, communities, villages and nations by re-Indigenizing and hybridizing our diets collectively in a way that is culturally appropriate for our people. By re-adopting an Indigenous based diet, you'll be assisting in the reconfiguration of your spiritual tie to the Mother Earth. When you strengthen that spiritual tie, your mind will operate with more clarity, empowering you to think critically with an Indigenous mindset. Natural, whole food is organic matter that is made up of energy just like everything else, but because it is created by the earth’s soil, thus it exists at a higher vibration than something that is created by a factory. Processed foods and alcohol, on the other hand, resonate at a low vibration. As a result of being whole and organic, natural foods are more reactive to good thoughts you send towards it, and thoughts are a form of energy. When there is emotion behind your thought, a physical manifestation will soon follow. Our ancestors understood this through our own languages and thought processes, and that is why our ancestors have always prayed over their food and water. We should continue this practice.
After adapting to an ancestral diet–– free of alcohol and other mind/mood altering substances–– your body will be stronger and more responsive to your physical fitness goals because it’s not being zapped with unnatural preservatives and additives contained in processed foods and drinks that are detrimental to your body’s biochemistry. Your emotional wellness will also benefit significantly because your brain and body biochemistry will be in harmony. Ultimately, your entire being will function at an elevated level. The re-Indigenization of diet and dedication to eating ancestral foods is simply a return to this holistic lifestyle. Make no mistake, this is NOT a fad diet. Re-adapting to ancestral eating and should be a permanent shift to be passed down for future generations to enjoy.
By adapting to this elevated lifestyle, we will create positive economic repercussions as well. We will stop supporting fraudulent food, drug and alcohol corporations who care only about money and not about health. You have the power to positively impact intertribal food commerce by participating in the efforts of Tribal Food Sovereignty through gardening, hunting, gathering, trading and buying from local farmers. Tribal Food Sovereignty is an important nation building tactic which empowers our people through self-determination, ultimately leading to a vibrant and joyous life for us and future generations to come!
The true measure of wealth is the quality and availability of food and water! Eat for longevity. Restore the spiritual tie to real food and clean water.
THE IMPACT OF COLONIZATION ON ANCESTRAL DIET
As Indigenous people, it is important that we understand why many people in our communities are currently in poor health so that we may better understand the importance of re-traditionalizing our diets now. It is also important to understand that in the days of our ancestors, our communities were most certainly in better health.
The people we descend from were athletically gifted people and our original dances, songs, combative techniques, ceremonies and games are all proof of this. The diets that our people followed allowed them to have a better quality of life than many of us now. Since the invasion of westernization on the lands inhabited by Indigenous peoples, the overall physical/spiritual health and wellbeing of the people has quickly deteriorated. Attacks on Indigenous peoples’ food sources were some of the first and most devastating acts committed by early western governments. In addition to the invasion came dramatic changes to the ecosystem by the introduction of foreign and invasive plant and animal species, which led to severe environmental disruption, thus further deteriorating Indigenous ways of life. The strategic introduction of alcohol also contributed to a spiritual disconnect from our land and its resources, resulting in poor health.
Further European incursion into the lands–– now known as the Americas–– led to centuries of brutal and devastating colonial practices which continue, to this day, to impact Indigenous peoples’ overall health and wellness. With the depletion of Native lands and confinement of Native peoples to Reservations; with the cultural genocide and epidemic of abuse which took place in the church and in boarding schools; and with a severe drop in population, Native peoples became further dependent on government assistance and Native communities weakened.
In the Reservation era, our ancestors were forced into an abrupt change of lifestyle and struggled to adjust to entirely foreign economic and governmental systems. Their traditional ways of hunting, fishing and harvesting were either outlawed or impossible to continue because of the environmental devastation which had already ensued. In a pathetic attempt to make up for treaty violations, the Government began distributing food, healthcare and education to Native peoples. These programs were initiated under the disguise of good-naturedness but in reality only further damaged our communities. Commodity food programs introduced heavily processed, fatty and starchy unnatural foods into Native diets. The Federal government intentionally introduced these cheap and unhealthy foods in Native communities with hopes of systematically wreaking havoc on native minds and bodies. The attack on Native health and wellbeing was to further eradicate the power of the people so that there could be no resistance to the continuing theft of indigenous land and resources; an age old tactic that was used for centuries in ancient Europe.
In spite of their ill effects on our bodies, minds and spirits, these harmful foods have become a part of our cultures today. Consequently, Native peoples are suffering from the epidemic of obesity, further resulting in deadly diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, infertility, cirrhosis, strokes and various forms of cancer. Euro-American culture has furthermore influenced our people to devalue our spiritual connection to food.
The presence of alcohol, drugs and other mind and mood altering substances are a direct negative result of colonization and have contributed greatly to not only the current state of poor health, but also to the mental, emotional and spiritual disconnection that many of our people are experiencing. All of this has disempowered us and if we do not act now, it will continue to hinder our abilities to collectively restore, preserve and evolve our Indigenous cultures and spirituality.
MAKING THE SHIFT TO AN ANCESTRAL BAISED DIET
We like to encourage people to make steps towards a complete overhaul in food choices, ultimately leading to a permanent change in lifestyle. There cannot be one single diet plan prescribed across the board for everyone because everyone’s bodies and lifestyles are different. Diet plans will vary depending on the person’s level of health and lifestyle. Temporary diet plans are crucial for people such as athletes, body builders, fitness models and actors getting in shape for a movie role. These kinds of temporary diets should always be administered by professional dietitians and nutritionists.
For everyone else who’s simply looking to achieve holistic wellness, spirituality and longevity, lets start first by understanding which foods are ancestral foods and then making changes in steps, finding healthier alternatives, and adopting some practices to restore a healthier relationship with food. It is important to understand these practices before we get into recipes. There are some other topics within these practices that should also be recognized like: emotional eating, cheat days, eating in moderation, whole organic food vs supplements, healthy fats, protein, complex carbs, meal preps, and what to look for when eating out. We’ll briefly go over some of these practices and topics and how they’re related to our wellness.
Identifying Ancestral Foods
Ancestral foods are local and organic, non GMO, seasonal, and environmentally sustainable.
- AF is mostly processed at home, with our hands.
- AF eating is cultural. Native people can role model this way of
eating, as we are the closest to the earth, and bring this foodway to
tribes and the larger world community.
- Our ancestors would recognize AF foods and AF ingredients. They
could make these foods with little instruction.
- AF foods are any foods that can be fished, hunted, or collected from
- AF foods are any foods that can be harvested from the earth or water
and tossed fresh into a salad.
- AF foods are foods that indigenous people enjoyed for tens of
thousands of years before agriculture, before contact with European
- AF foods and drinks need little or no labeling, minimal packaging,
very few ingredients, and have undergone minimal travel.
- AF foods nourish the mind/body/heart/spirit.
- AF foods are low glycemic - with carbohydrate rich foods like yams
and sweet potatoes for high activity levels and athletes.
- They are naturally low anti-nutrients, nutrient-dense, dairy-free, and lack the addictive factors of processed foods and carbohydrate-rich
foods and drinks introduced at contact.
- Eating AF is treating food as sacred, knowing the farmers and origins
of the foods, knowing the paths the food has taken from the source (wild, farmed, or gardened) to the table, thanking the food, Mother Earth, and Creator.
- Eating AF is sharing food and the wellness that it brings with the community.
- AF foods should contain less than 4-5 ingredients if it is in a package. All the ingredients are real foods. Ancestral foods never contain artificial substances/poisons like chemicals, flavors, hydrogenated, maltodextrin, sugar, yeast, corn syrup, or other broken parts of whole foods.
- AF foods are usually a single, whole ingredient such as fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.
Your ancestor, or an indigenous ancestor from around the world,
could identify the food and prepare something healthy with it. * with the exception of certain hybridized components, such as coconut oil.
Thank you to Regina & Andy at Native Paleo for the contribution of this information.
IDENTIFYING HARMFUL foods
Next, list of the foods that you know you need to cut out of your diet. The idea is to ultimately end your relationship with harmful foods. For example:
- gluten products
- alcohol products
- dairy products
- corn based products
- soy products
- products containing high fructose corn syrup (sodas, energy drinks, alcohol)
- products containing refined sugar (maltodextrin, sucrose, mycose, dextrose, as well as a plethora of other synonyms for sugar)
- fried foods cooked in hydrogenated oils like sunflower oil, corn oil, and wesson oil
- products with labels like 'fat free’ and 'low fat products’
- wheat products
These are ingredients that Indigenous peoples have lived without for thousands of years. Prior to the introduction of these foods, Native peoples lived virtually disease free and in harmony with the Mother Earth. By identifying these products you’re putting them on your food radar to be conscious of when you’re out and about. The idea is to get to the point where you’re not consuming any of these foods or substances.
Begin by setting a reasonable and realistic goal for yourself. As you prepare to eventually abandon these harmful substances altogether, you want to reduce your intake of these foods as much as you can over a reasonable period of time. Start by breaking it in half. For example, if you’re used to having something starchy a few times a day, change it to once a day until you’re ultimately not having it at all. Replace it with something high in protein and healthy fats. Remember, ridding yourself of these harmful foods is the key to living a healthy and productive life. This practice should be prominent in your consience as you journey through your day.
ALKALINE vs ACID
While developing a healthy diet, it is important to consider and understand the difference between foods that are alkalizing versus foods that are acidic. Alkaline means that a substance is capable of neutralizing acid. Alkaline foods are high in pH balance and work to neutralize acid by raising amount of oxygen that our blood takes in. Why is this important? If our blood is not absorbing enough oxygen, we get sick. Most Westernized diets are way too acidic, which explains the prevalence of ailments like cancer, hypertension, infections, diabetes, and arthritis in America and Europe. An overload of acidic food starts by making us feel sick and tired, and over time leads to serious illnesses caused by kidney and liver damage and poor organ function. We need well-functioning organs in order to neutralize these acids: it is a cyclical process. So, in order to prevent an overload of these potentially toxic dietary acids, we must take steps to neutralize them… and it starts with what you eat. The good news is, unlike the typical American diet, the typical Ancestral diet is full of alkalizing foods and ingredients that promote healthy organ function while trimming body mass. We are largely in control of the acid-neutralizing process: we just have to eat right! Below are two lists: acid-promoting foods to minimize or avoid, and alkaline-promoting foods to eat frequently. Keep in mind that our list of alkaline-promoting foods is carefully curated to include ingredients that are not only acid-neutralizing, but also congruent with other tenets of the Well For Culture lifestyle.
Not all Indigenous/ancestral foods are alkalizing - some are acidic. That does not mean that we should never eat these foods, or that they are entirely bad for us. The key is to remember that your body as a whole should be balanced at a healthy level of alkalinity. Thus, it is not always bad to eat acid-promoting foods, (for example: non-GMO corn, beans, animal proteins) as every food listed varies in acidity levels. Balance is Key.
While we have included on these lists some common foods and food groups that are easily categorizable, we acknowledge that the lists are inevitably incomplete. Listing every food in existence is near impossible. So, if you are wondering about a food that's not on either list, please inquire, or ask a nutritionist, or attempt a Google search. Finally, the lists are inherently flawed in another sense: they do not offer a view of the alkalinity/acidity spectrum. All of these foods (even within the same lists) offer varying pH levels. We are in the process of constructing a visual chart to more accurately represent these levels within ancestral foods. Expect an update within a few weeks.
ACID PROMOTING FOODS TO AVOID
- all junk and processed: soda, energy drinks, ramen noodles, pop tarts, frozen foods, chips, and hot cheetos
dairy products: yogurt, milk, butter, cheese
breads and grains: white bread, whole wheat bread, bagels, fry bread
pasta: white or whole wheat
Nuts: peanuts, walnuts, cashews
cured/processed meats: pepperoni, hot dogs, spam
processed poultry: chicken, turkey bacon
white or brown rice
canned fish (sardines, tuna, etc.)
oils: seed oils, canola oil
Extreme acid forming artificial sweeteners: NutraSweet, Splenda, Spoonful, Sweet 'N Low, Equal, Aspartame, and Sucrose
ALKALINE FOODS TO ENJOY
vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, squash, zucchini, beets, sweet potato, green beans, green peas, radishes, cauliflower, carrots, celery, spinach, mushrooms, chard greens, collard greens, pumpkin, wild onions, wild greens, wheat grass, parsnips, peppers, garlic, cucumber, egg plant, and turnips
mineral water (the higher the pH balance, the better)
fruits & nuts: apples, watermelon, tomatoes, coconut, cherries, apricots, bananas, cactus fruit, black berries, salmon berries, avocados, strawberries, watermelon, raspberries, cantaloupe, honey dew, almonds, chestnuts
fresh herbs and spices
Manoomin (Ojibwe wild rice)
alkalizing sweeteners: Stevia
Soda- diet soda-enegy drinks
If soda is your vice, make an effort to gradually switch to healthier alternatives. A decrease or elimination of sugary drinks could completely change your body composition and energy level for the better. Start by replacing your regular soda with naturally flavored, organic versions. They taste better and don't do quite as much damage. Eventually, try to stop entirely. If you are a daily soda drinker who has more than one a day, make a small decrease at a time, like one sugared soda a day, and eventually one a week or none at all. Diet sodas and energy drinks are just as bad as regular sodas, as they contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. These ingredients are toxic and can trigger insulin, sending your body into a fat storing mode, resulting in weight gain. Artificial flavors also dull our taste buds and prevent us from truly enjoying naturally sweetened foods from our mother earth. Look for caffeine-free soft drinks, and gradually decrease the number of caffeinated drinks you have each day as you work toward kicking the soda/energy drink habit completely. If you're addicted to the caffeine in soda and energy drinks, you're really kicking two habits– the soda habit and the caffeine habit. It can take up to a few weeks to truly forget the craving.
cheat meals over cheat days
‘Cheat days’ are another popular topic regarding diet fads. The problem with 'cheat meals' is that a person is rewarding themselves with something harmful to their body, which is counter productive to the whole purpose of clean eating, and even a fad diet. If you regularly eat cheat meals, you're not allowing your body's biochemistry to adapt to the otherwise healthy diet change. The body needs to change certain hormones to ramp up production of enzymes to make use of the new ‘good fat’ as the primary source of fuel. Again– just like artificial flavors– cheat days do not allow the taste buds to completely adapt to the whole, organic food tastes. Some people call it ‘decolonizing the taste buds’. A cheat day should really be only a ‘cheat meal’ that happens one to three times a month. You have to adopt the logic in your mind that these unhealthy foods are harmful to your overall spiritual and physical wellness, and that it's better to find healthier treats to reward yourself with, such as organic dark chocolate.
eating disorders & food addiction
If you have an eating disorder or a food addiction, it is important that you take action by consulting professional help. The root of the problem is usually something deep-seated, such as unresolved grief or trauma. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have serious consequences on a person's health, productivity, and relationships. Unfortunately, eating disorders and food addiction have become normalized in many Native communities and can easily be overlooked in social settings. We are often afraid to talk to one another about these things. But, it's important to have those conversations, and to help one another to get well again. The rise of eating disorders in our communities are a direct impact of colonization. Nationwide efforts should be made to cure this epidemic, just like alcohol abuse and substance abuse. Food addiction is no different than an alcohol or drug addiction– a person who is addicted to drugs and alcohol cannot be told to use or drink in moderation. Addiction is the real culprit here, and in order to recover, professional help and Indigenous healing practices are needed to help cure the roots of addiction.
For more information on eating disorders visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
PRACTICES TO ADOPT
- Prayer - Giving thanks for our food is an age old practice; continuing this tradition on a daily basis will assist in restoring our spiritual relationship to food.
- Mediation - Strengthening our overall wellness will assist ridding ourselves of unhealthy habits; meditation can be a great tool.
- 'Power of Positive Thinking'- See your day being played out in a positive way!
- Hydration - This is key for all other vital bodily function and weight loss. You should be drinking at least 1 gallon a day, 2.5 gallons on training. Try water with a high PH Balance.
- As soon as you wake up rinse out your mouth, then drink a half a liter of water to jump start your metabolism. * don’t forget to send good thoughts to the water, it’s receptive to positive thoughts and energy. See the experiment by Masaru Emoto
- Eat first- then have coffee. Don’t drink any water during or after eating, as your body needs to digest and too much liquids can dilute stomach acids that break down the food.
- Eat foods heavier in calories in the morning so you have the whole day to burn it off.
- If you drink coffee, try switching to organic coffee and try coconut milk with no sweetener.
Squeeze in 3 meals with smaller meal/snack in between. Consume about 4-6 meals a day. You basically need to be eating every 3.5 hours to maintain sufficient fuel to aid in fat burning. In doing this you’ll reduce emotional eating and improve metabolism while avoiding hunger/cravings.
Always have some kind of protein and fiber with your meal.
Try getting your source of protein from natural food.
- Consume more protein, period. Even more if you’re building muscle. Stay away from starchy foods with little to no nutritional value, like: potatoes, pastas, breads and noodles.
- View food as an ‘energy source,’ not as something to make you full or satisfy a craving. Once you do this, your temptations go away because you want to feel and look good.
- Eat grass-fed bison and other wild game, e.g., moose, caribou, elk, deer, turkey, and salmon.
- Eat organic whenever possible (actually FDA certified organic).
- Stay away from Trans-fats at all costs!
- Use coconut oil for all of your cooking - never vegetable or canola oil.
- Choose healthier alternatives to corn-based products (high fructose corn syrup, Canola oil, and cornmeal-fed animals).
- The yolk is the healthiest part of the egg, but the key is reducing inflammation in your body as to not develop ‘bad cholesterol’ deposit on your arteries.
- Don't count calories. Caloric restriction usually results in self-loathing and poor weight loss outcomes.
- Plan to eat a lot of fiber. This is easiest through greens and veggies.
- Low fat diets and skipping meals make you hungry and upset. They are more likely to cause you to be driven back to the wrong foods in the end.
- Clean out the ‘toxic waste’ your body produces by increasing fiber intake.
- Don’t count calories. Look at your food choices and eat more natural foods, they’re easier on your body.
- Get a sufficient amount of rest; especially after training days.
- The later you stay up the more likely you are to become hungry and binge on junk. Drink lots of water before bed.
Stay away from soy and other forms of estrogens in your food, such as xenoestrogens that are on herbicides and pesticides from non- organic food sources, plants, and fruits.
THE GROCERY STORE
- Stay in the produce section and the outer perimeter of the store.
- Stay out of the aisles.
- Avoid too many foods in bags or boxes.
- Avoid consuming too many products that do NOT have an expiration date. That means they contain too many additives and preservatives.
- Avoid foods that contain more than 4 ingredients.
- Avoid foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce.
- Shop at local farmers markets.
- Consider a home or community garden.
- Hunt wild game, fish in rivers, lakes and oceans.
- Consider trading foods with farmers and hunters for food or services.
Consume post-workout carbs within the hour from finishing workouts. (sweet potatoes, traditional beans, Ojibwe wild rice. Have the food already prepped and waiting).
Post-workout meal of some sort.
Morning nutrition sets the day! (e.g., garden omelets w no cheese, spinach & eggs, avocados, sweet potato hash ).
- If hungry before bed (light snack, healthy fats and protein/ fibers source, almonds, coconut meat, avocado, traditional beans).
- Watch hydration for healing of muscles from previous days; sugar consumption should be at a minimum.
- Choose health fats that fill you and keep you satiated. (grass fed bison, beef, deer, elk, salmon, whole organic eggs, avocado, coconut oils and meats, almonds).
Eating on the road
- Research the nearest grocery store with clean eating options.
- Stock up at the grocery store! It can be pricey but you have to invest in your health - and it's usually not as expensive as eating out.
- Package wild catch salmon, spinach, sliced almonds or pine nuts with coconut oil are common ingredients you can find at any grocery store; and makes a great salad.
- Try an avocado on the side. Blue, black and red berries, bananas, coconuts, strawberries, almonds and walnuts make great in-between meal snacks.
- As a beverage choice, ask for water or unsweetened tea.
- Avoid breads and sandwiches, including whole wheat.
- Avoid ordering foods that have creamy sauces or gravies.
- Start your meal with a salad packed with veggies, to help control hunger and feel satisfied sooner.
- Ask for olive oil as a salad dressing. Ranch and other dressings are jam packed with high fructose corn syrup and sodium – avoid at all costs!
- Choose main dishes that include vegetables.
- Order steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes instead of those that are fried or sautéed.
- Order an item from the menu instead heading for the "all-you-can-eat" buffet.
- If main portions at a restaurant are bigger than you want, order an appetizer-sized portion or a side dish instead of an entrée or share a main dish with a friend.
Before you buy an ingest a supplement, you need to know the hard, basic science behind it. Researching reviews of the product is a great idea. You should only take supplements that have been successfully and positively reviewed through the rigors of scientific inquiry. Why? Because if you don't, you're putting yourself at risk. The supplements market is not as regulated as the drug industry, allowing less scrupulous manufacturers to make claims about their products that may be based on faulty science. Part of the 'Well For Culture' movement is no longer supporting fraudulent food and supplement industries who have no concern of the overall wellness of the people who purchase their products. The results of multiple supplements stacked together only last while your using them. The results may only be temporary while the negative impacts on your health maybe long term; depending on your usage. It is crucial to maintain healthy liver and kidneys if you choose to use workout supplements. Consulting with a health physician or natural path doctor about the status of your health would a be a good idea.
The current fad of supplements are pre and post workout drinks, pills, and powders that contain various stimulants. Stimulant side effects can include: nervousness, irritability, insomnia, addiction and dependency, heart palpitations, rhythm abnormalities, weight loss, tremors, mild hypertension, hallucinations, convulsions and heart attacks. Those who have any form of heart disease should not use any stimulant to boost athletic performance. Stimulants like caffeine fool the adrenal glands into cranking out large amounts of adrenaline, effectively producing more energy. Long-term usage can lead to dependency, as the adrenals down-regulate and function poorly without the use of the stimulant. In the proper amounts, stimulant use is safe for most users. Be sure to cycle caffeine use to avoid impairment of adrenal function.
The most important thing you need to know about supplements is that you shouldn't even start asking about them until you have covered your basics: designing and implementing an intense but smart strength-training and conditioning routine; utilizing a sports nutrition strategy that includes a base of lean protein, mixed with a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and essential fatty acids; and ensuring that you get plenty of rest and recovery time to prevent muscle damage and injury.