Traditional Food Systems and Health

Practice Point



GO TO THE LAND AND WATERS TO FIND YOUR FIRST FOODS. Be active in exercising your right to hunt, fish, harvest and gather in your territory. Ask the old people and the traditional and environmental knowledge keepers how to do this in a good way. It will be good for the mind, body and spirit and contribute to a self-reliant future.

(First Nations Health Authority, “Traditional Foods Fact Sheets“)

Aboriginal peoples in Canada have undergone a significant nutritional transition whereby traditional diets and associated physical activities have been replaced with patterns of consumption that increase the risk of developing chronic disease.

Traditionally, Aboriginal diets and consumption patterns arose from complex and holistic food systems that provided health benefits beyond nutrition. Culture, a determinant of health, is intricately tied to traditional Aboriginal foods. Not only are traditional foods valued from cultural, spiritual and health perspectives, but the activities involved in their acquisition and distribution allow for the practice of cultural values such as sharing and cooperation …

At the community level, traditional food systems may contribute to health via other economic and social pathways such as forming the basis of non-cash economies. Additionally, the activities related to traditional food systems also confer health benefits through increased physical activity …

It may be impossible or even undesirable to define the complex nutritional benefits of traditional foods separately from the health benefits of traditional food systems. However, emerging information suggests that traditional diets are able to supply a healthier pattern of fats and a greater amount of vitamins and minerals …

(Lynda Earle, BSc, MD, MPH, CCFP, “Traditional Aboriginal Diets and Health“; footnotes omitted)

See also Canada’s Food Guide for First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

* * *

We acknowledge that the land on which we work is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.