The Eskimo diet, referred to sometimes as the Inuit diet, describes the diet typically consumed by the indigenous peoples of the Arctic areas of the United States, Canada, Russia, and Denmark. There are a few main reasons why the Inuit peoples came to consume this high fat diet.
Eating Like an Eskimo
Due to the harsh climate of the arctic, access to food can be sporadic and the variety is limited. As a result, the people living in these areas adapted their ways of life and diet to what was available to them.
The traditional Inuit diet was almost entirely protein and fat with some gathering of plants native to the area thrown in here and there. Some people suggest this traditional way of eating was one of the only cultures in the world to eat a raw food diet, but many people questioned why these natives didn't develop diseases related to vitamins missed by the exclusion of most fruits and vegetables.
The answer appears to be that by consuming meat and fish raw, the Inuit peoples were able to obtain vitamins normally lost during the cooking process. The locals themselves believe this type of diet strengthens the body and the blood and even helps to keep them warmer in subzero climates.
Raw Protein and Fat-Based Diet
Hunting for food has been a way of life for the indigenous peoples of the Arctic for many years. Though technologies and times may have changed, hunting is still considered an important part of Eskimo and Inuit culture and diet.
These hunters use both land and sea to find food. Here are some of the animals they hunt for food.
- Seals - These particular animals make up a large portion of the Inuit diet. There are a variety of different types of seals hunted based on season and availability.
- Fish - Fish are a huge source of food for Arctic peoples, especially herring, cod, trout, and other local Arctic fish.
- Whales - It is obviously a huge undertaking to harpoon a whale, but historically these animals served as the "big catch" that could sustain a small village for months. Nearly every part of the animal was used for various food and home purposes.
- Land Animals - Hunters in these cultures often looked to the water to find their protein sources, but there were a few land animals that could be caught, trapped, or hunted during certain parts of the year. The biggest of these were the caribou and reindeer.
Concerns About the Eskimo Diet
Clearly, it is possible to eat like the Eskimos and live a relatively healthy life, as the people of these cultures did this for many years. However, there are a few things to consider about eating a mostly protein and fat-based Eskimo diet.
- One of the things that made it possible for these individuals to eat so much protein without developing certain conditions like scurvy was because the meat was raw. However, there are several risks, like E. coli, associated with the consumption of raw meat.
- These cultures had regular access to fresh fish and other high protein food and fat sources. In many parts of the country, it would be nearly impossible to purchase fish that fresh.
- Some studies have shown natives of these regions have slightly altered digestive systems that include large livers, which would assist the body in breaking down so much protein and fat.
- While this type of diet has been linked to heart health due to the high concentration of fish oils, there are many other ways to eat a heart-healthy diet without the risk associated with consuming raw meat.
Talk to Your Physician
Before you seriously consider starting the Eskimo diet, talk to your physician about it. He or she can help you decide whether this type of diet is truly healthy, and whether any modifications should be made in order for you to receive proper nutrition.