February 26, 2024
Indigenous communities advocating for the removal of dairy from USDA dietary guidelines

Indigenous communities advocating for the removal of dairy from USDA dietary guidelines

Tribal groups across the United States are currently advocating for the removal of dairy from the USDA’s dietary guidelines. These groups argue that the consumption of dairy products is not aligned with traditional Indigenous diets and can have negative impacts on the health of their communities.

For many Indigenous people, traditional diets are deeply rooted in their cultural and spiritual practices. These diets are often centered around foods like wild game, fish, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Dairy products are not typically a part of these traditional diets, and the introduction of dairy into Indigenous communities has been linked to a number of health issues.

One of the primary concerns that tribal groups have with the inclusion of dairy in the dietary guidelines is the high prevalence of lactose intolerance among Indigenous people. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, up to 90% of Native Americans, as well as many other Indigenous peoples, are lactose intolerant. This means that their bodies do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase, which is necessary to properly digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products.

The inclusion of dairy in the dietary guidelines not only fails to take into account the dietary needs and preferences of Indigenous people, but it could also be contributing to health disparities within these communities. Studies have found that lactose intolerance can lead to a range of digestive issues, including bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Additionally, the consumption of dairy products has been linked to an increased risk of certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

In light of these concerns, tribal groups are calling on the USDA to remove dairy from the dietary guidelines and to instead promote a more inclusive and culturally sensitive approach to nutrition. Many Indigenous leaders and advocates argue that the current dietary guidelines are not representative of the diverse dietary traditions and health needs of Indigenous communities, and are calling for a more holistic and culturally responsive approach to nutrition.

The push to remove dairy from the dietary guidelines is part of a larger movement within Indigenous communities to reclaim and revitalize traditional foods and dietary practices. Many tribal nations are working to promote the consumption of traditional foods as a way to improve the health and well-being of their communities. This includes efforts to increase access to wild game, fish, and other traditional foods, as well as to promote traditional cooking methods and recipes.

The efforts to remove dairy from the dietary guidelines are also part of a broader movement to decolonize the food system and to challenge the dominance of Western dietary norms and practices. Indigenous leaders and advocates argue that the current dietary guidelines reflect a Eurocentric and colonial perspective that does not take into account the unique cultural and dietary traditions of Indigenous peoples. By pushing for the removal of dairy from the guidelines, tribal groups are seeking to challenge these colonial narratives and to promote a more culturally relevant and inclusive approach to nutrition.

In recent years, there has been growing recognition within the public health and nutrition fields of the importance of centering Indigenous foodways and traditions in efforts to promote health and well-being. In 2018, the American Medical Association passed a resolution calling on the USDA to include traditional foods and dietary practices of Indigenous peoples in the dietary guidelines. This resolution was seen as a significant step towards recognizing the importance of Indigenous foodways in public health and nutrition policy.

In addition to advocacy efforts at the national level, many tribal nations are also taking action at the local level to promote traditional foods and dietary practices. This includes initiatives to support Indigenous agriculture and food sovereignty, as well as efforts to promote traditional foods in schools, healthcare facilities, and other community settings.

The push to remove dairy from the dietary guidelines is part of this larger movement to promote health and well-being within Indigenous communities, and to reclaim and revitalize traditional foodways. By advocating for the removal of dairy from the dietary guidelines, tribal groups are seeking to ensure that the dietary needs and preferences of their communities are adequately represented, and to promote a more culturally sensitive and inclusive approach to nutrition.

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