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About the Tribe
Importance of Animal Products
Importance of Plants
Transition to Industrialized Food Products
The Navajo diet changed in three stages: (1) contact with the Spanish leading mutton from sheep or goat as their main food (all parts were consumed), (2) after their defeat, forced march and imprisonment by the US Army in 1864-68, and (3) introduction of federal surplus foods and progressive increase in ultra-processed foods. In 1956, the average Navajo BMI was 23.5 for men and for 22.9 women, when their saturated fat intake (mainly mutton and lard-fried bread) was as high or higher than White Americans (102). In 2020, average BMI for Navajo women was 31.2 (103).
In 1947, diabetes was diagnosed in 5/25,000 admissions to a hospital in a relatively young population. In 1968, diabetes prevalence among hospitalized Navajo was 0.6%, and the disease was typically mild (88). By the 1990s, diabetes prevalence was 2–4 fold higher among Navajo than non-Hispanic Whites (90, 92). The major changes to the Navajo diet were increased calories, mainly ultra-processed foods with sugar, white flour, and meat. Compared to the general population, total calories were higher with similar macronutrient percentages. Less than one-third of fat was saturated (104, 105).