The food and nutrient intakes of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. (The world’s best ultra runners)
A nutritional survey of 372 semi acculturated Tarahumara Indians in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of Mexico was carried out to determine the composition of their diet and its nutritional adequacy.
Dietary histories from 174 adults and 198 children were obtained by interviews and field observations during 1973 and 1974. The histories for the children were calculated in part from the menus of six boarding church schools. Nutrient calculations of daily intake were based upon food composition tables and some actual analyses of Tarahumara foods.
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, mostly from starch. Only 6% of total calories were derived from simple sugars. The crude fiber intake was high, 18 to 21 g/day. Salt consumption was moderately low, 5 to 8 g/day. The daily intakes of calcium, iron, vitamin A, ascorbic acid, thiamin niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 exceeded or approximated the FAO/WHO recommendations.
Thus, the simple diet of the Tarahumara Indians, composed primarily of beans and corn, provided a high intake of complex carbohydrate and was low in fat and cholesterol. Their diet was found to be generally of high nutritional quality and would, by all criteria, be considered antiatherogenic.