I’ve been thinking about how wild foods contribute to one’s health. Further questions have arisen over the years, as i’ve contemplated this tremendously important topic.
Examples of these internal questions are:
Do I need to live outdoors every night to be healthy?
Do I need to get sunlight on my skin as I walk 10 miles each day to find food?
Do I need to laugh, wrestle, and sing with my community?
What does real health look like, in the past and in the present?
I’d like to use the opportunity here to share two peer-reviewed articles in my hopes of examining real measures of ancestral health.
The first article I’d like to point to is called “Forest foods and healthy diets: quantifying the contributions” by Rowland et. al.
The researchers from 2016 looked at the Hadza people of Tanzania.
They start off the paper by saying that “just 12 crops and 14 animal species make up 98% of agricultural food supply while just three crops – wheat, maize and rice – supply over half of global calories”.
I think is fact is amazing, and says a-lot about our relationships with our earth and our bodies, given that our ancestors certainly ate more that 12 crops and 14 animal species throughout the year.
The researchers looked at the Hadza in part because they’re one of the last hunter-gatherer peoples on our planet, and can possibly hold answers about our shared patterns of ancestral health.
You’ve already read in my other articles, that wild plants often are more nutritious than cultivated plants. The Hadza people eat a species of tuber, small and large game, honey from stinging and stingless bees, leafy green foliage, baobab fruit and one species of berry.
They don’t consume dairy or grains, but they do love their meat and honey!
The second article that I can point to, is one published in 2014. It again looked at the Hadza people.
This paper is called “Gut microbiome of the Hadza hunter-gatherers”.
The researchers begin by noting how the health of our gut influences the health of our digestion, mood, immune system, and much more yet to be discovered!
Jeff Leach, one of the main researchers visited the Hadza, and took samples of their environment over a few months. All of their work was of course was consensual, and followed accepted guidelines for ethnographic research.
Their results are very interesting, because they reported evidence of pathogenic bacteria (i.e., Treponema) at levels that would cause a Westerner to become sick. In other words, the Hadza were adapted to bacteria that keep them healthy.
The paper said according to older research, “the Hadza have relatively low rates of infectious disease, metabolic disease and nutritional deficiencies in comparison with other settled groups in the northern Tanzania and southeastern Uganda region”.
The hunter-gather’s of Tanzania, not only hunt and gather, but also are exposed to plenty of UV light exposure, avoided the use of modern antibiotics and hand-sanitizers, and fluoridated drinking water.
They’ll eat much of their hunted meat raw, drink from waters that their prey use, and move a great deal throughout the day. Division of labor is a thing amongst the sexes in their tribe.
There isn’t black and whites in my conclusions. After all, I am writing this article from the comfort of my home.
I hunt and gather, sleep outdoors, and move often, but i’m not a Hadza hunter-gatherer.
What and who am I becoming?
I hope that this article introduced you to one indigenous group in Africa that is experiencing a high level of health, even without our modern comforts.
There are many more indigenous groups that we could point too, that depend on wild plants, animals, mushrooms, insects, and other food groups for sustenance.
Time and destiny will tell how each group will continue to survive and thrive in future decades. I would make a bet however, that the best to survive are the indigenous peoples who carry on their traditions, and adopt the new ones as well.
I am grateful for the modern technologies that are serving the betterment of human-kind.
I hope this paper served you on your journey of eating wild foods. I know it’s modern and cool to forage, and I want you to continue! Please do responsibly and in sovereignty. The plants are alive, and are living just like us humans.