Diet and the Tsimane People

The Tsimane people are an indigenous tribe that live in the tropical forests of Bolivia. They are well-known for having low blood pressure and good cardiovascular health. They traditionally hunt, fish, farm, and gather food for subsistence. Unlike the standard American diet, their traditional diet is higher in carbohydrates, fiber, and protein, and lower in fat. They eat plantains, rice, manioc, maize, fruit, lean game, freshwater fish, and occasionally honey. Although their diet is not vegan, most of the animal foods they eat are from hunting and fishing.

However, according to this study, their diet is sadly changing. Recent encroachment and population growth had put more pressure on their stockpile of game and fish. More Tsimane children are attending school and more adults are working in our modern society. These factors are causing them to acculturate into our society, forcing them to slowly forgo their traditions and lifestyle. In addition, these changes are giving the Tsimane more access to domesticated farm animals, refined grains, refined sugars, and cooking oil. As a result, the Tsimane people are becoming more overweight and obese.

What bothers me is that they are using cooking oil more, which seems to clash with their traditional diet as their diet is low in fat. The Tsimane people’s traditional diet is proof that a high-carbohydrate and low fat diet is a better diet than a high-fat, low-carb diet. This is one reason the keto diet does not work. Sadly, a lot of people blame carbohydrates for their weight and increase their fat intake to try to lose it. However, a high-carb, low-fat vegan diet is the best way to lose weight and reduce your risk of many chronic diseases. Even if the Tsimane are not vegan, their traditional diet has shown a lot of healthy results.

But according to this study, I am now worried that they are eating more fat in the form of cooking oil and have more access to refined foods. The only good news is that a lot of them work jobs and can afford necessities like medical care. However, more access to relatively unhealthy foods could change their health for the worse and they might increase their risks of the chronic diseases that usually do not plague them based on their traditional diet. In addition, migrants and ranchers are moving into their land and encroaching on their territory. Do not forget that ranchers and farmers were the ones responsible for the fires in the Amazon rainforest, especially cattle ranchers who want to raise cattle for beef. And then there are the farmers who grow crops, but feed them to the domesticated farm animals instead of feeding us. World hunger is a real problem because most of the crops are fed to farm animals that we slaughter and eat. Migrants, ranchers and farmers are also responsible for deforestation of these tropical rainforests. This is why I became vegan.

I hope the Tsimane still practice their traditional diet and their indigenous culture. It will be hard as the modern world is assimilating them, but I hope they still adhere to their native culture and diet. The same goes for the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico’s Copper Canyon who eat a mostly plant-based diet and practice long-distance running. I hope they too practice their culture and lifestyle despite the modern world also encroaching on them.

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