Nutrient characteristics of Southwest Native American pre-contact diets

Nicolette I. Teufel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Southwest Native American pre-contact diets varied relative to water availability and subsequent distribution and density of plant and animal resources. Early paleolithic big game hunters consumed a diet high in fat and protein but low in carbohydrates and fiber. Big game extinction led to increased reliance on wild plant foods. Arid-land plants are high in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, hypoglycemic chemical compounds and antioxidant micronutrients. These characteristics enhance plant survival by improving water absorption and retention, by providing protection from predation and strong desiccating winds, and by producing colors attractive to potential pollinators. For Native Americans, wild plant foods provided a diet high in fiber, carbohydrates and micronutrients. In some locales, this emphasis on plant foods led to a shift to agriculture. The varieties of plants domesticated predominantly corn, beans and squash, were lower in simple carbohydrates and higher in mineral content than modern commercial varieties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-284
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996


  • Arid-land adaptation
  • Diet
  • Native Americans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Nutrient characteristics of Southwest Native American pre-contact diets'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this