To have fun with my Tarahumara theme this week, I tried to eat the same way day after day: beans and handmade corn tortillas. I managed five meals based that way. I found that making tortillas is not so hard, but it does require a little more time than cooking rice, which meant a couple of meals did become beans and rice. I also did not plan as well as I could have, so I was cooking beans from dry more often and eating later than I like to as result. Oh well.
What stuns me most about the Tarahumara diet is how simple it is, and how nutritionally complete. The Tarahumara see virtually no chronic disease (though sadly, that’s changing) and regularly do long distance runs. Their diet is discussed in this pubmed article:
“The protein intake was ample, at 87 g, and generously met the FAO/WHO recommendations for daily intake of essential amino acids. Fat contributed only 12% of total calories, its composition being 2% saturated and 5% polyunsaturated with a P/S ratio of 2. The mean dietary cholesterol intake was very low, less than 100 mg/day, and the plant sterol intake was high, over 400 mg/day. Carbohydrate comprised 75 to 80% of total calories…”
Thus, the simple diet of the Tarahumara Indians, composed primarily of beans and corn, … Their diet was found to be generally of high nutritional quality and would, by all criteria, be considered antiatherogenic.”
Pretty amazing stuff. But there’s more. While they were running around the canyons not getting heart disease, some of them got pretty good. Here is a great article desribing the Tarahumara racing the Leaville Trail 100 from Runner’s World , by Don Kardong, himself a great runner on the track in the 70s.
But long before Leadville or Born to Run, some Tarahumara went to the Amsterdam Olympics to run the marathon,
“Running for Mexico, they paced themselves for the cross-country runs of home. Apparently no made it clear to them that marathons were only 26 miles, 385 yards long. Minutes behind the front runners, the Tarahumaras crossed the finish line and continued running until halted by officials. ‘Too short, too short’ they complained.” (Indian Running, Peter Nabakov Capra Press Santa Barbara 1981)
Corn and beans.
It’s what’s on The Training Table!