As humans, we live in an erratic reality where our desires may sometimes prevail over our needs. We consume too many things without requiring to, and we take our bodies for granted in one way or another. It is easy to fall into the most typical bad habits— eating junk food and not exercising— yet the effects of doing so might be atrocious in the long run. Unhealthy diets evoke many adverse reactions, and it all leads to a decay in your body. Our hearts, which are the receivers of all our actions, are the prime organs to suffer from the results.
Keeping our hearts and arteries healthy is pretty much the key to a peaceful and long life. According to the American Heart Association, a person dies of a Cardio-Vascular disease every 37 seconds in the United States. As a result, 2.353 deaths happen each day from these dangerous illnesses that we all are at risk of getting. Most of them only appear after years and years of deficient lifestyle and choices. Yet, we can avoid them as much as we can with mindful ways of living and consuming.
The Tsimané: The Healthiest Hearts In The World
In these contemporary times, the rest of the world shows a similar bleak scenario. Many regions of the planet display a tendency to fall into risky routines of malnutrition and inactivity. Aside from our fast-paced lifestyles, cheap and high-calorie meals are the main reason.
However, this is not the case everywhere. Inside the Bolivian Amazon, an indigenous tribe called Tsimané, lives a quiet and lengthy existence, very atypical from what we know. Their state of isolation from urban areas has made them keep a rural subsistence. They are the T’simane council territory, where 17.000 people live on agriculture and farming.
Their ancient heritage is rich in culture, but what they can teach us best is how to live healthier. The Tsimané people have a life expectancy of up to 70 years old, though this comes as no surprise since they hold the world’s record of healthiest hearts.
A team of Anthropologists from the University of California made this discovery. According to their research, this population has little chance of developing heart disease. Moreover, they rarely suffer from hypertension, high cholesterol levels, or even diabetes. This is due to their low heart rates, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. In general, they have the cleanest arteries ever recorded in modern times, a notable feat.
The reason for this extraordinary condition has its roots in their unique lifestyles. Their daily diets come out of their farming and hunting labors. So, all they consume is very fresh and low fat. Unlike most urban people, this tribe only eats fruits, meats, nuts, and non-processed carbohydrates. And, while their calorie intake is high —close to 2.700 calories per day— only 15% of them contain fats. The rest is a blend of carbs and proteins and some nutrients such as potassium and magnesium.
Photo by Piotr Strycharz from Flickr
A Day In The Life Of The Tsimané
Be that as it may, they need every bit of the calories they ingest on account of their very dynamic routines. An urban lifestyle might seem quite hectic, but rural ways of living are much more active and lively.
Both the men and women of the tribe take part in the day-to-day chores and workloads. When men go hunting or fishing, the women work on the farms and take care of children. As a result, every Tsimané adult spends at least six hours of the day in physical activity. A man from the tribe might walk an estimate of 17.000 steps daily, and a woman would come close to 16.000 strides. It makes a total of 40 miles traveled by walking and working each week— only less than ten miles of what most runners race every week!
But these vigorous practices might soon change for the tribe. With time, these regions are becoming less secluded, and with that, most people might change their diets. At the bottom, processed foods are much less expensive than all the work that fresh food entails. Even so, the lesson the Tsimané gives to the world will live on forever.
Inspired by their livelihood, we decided to share some tips and health advice from the Tsimané wisdom. Although we may differ from the Bolivian tribe in many things, our bonds as humans make us equals. We hope you find them as enriching as we did!
1. Eat your carbs, but choose complex over simple
The Tsimané tribe consumes approximately 2.700 calories per day, and 64% of them are complex carbohydrates. These carbs are long chains of sugar molecules that provide energy from glucose. What makes them better than simple carbs is that they take more time to dissolve, so they supply more energy to the body.
While the Tsimanés find these carbs in a small variety of foods like rice and plantain, there are many more you can choose. Whole foods high in fiber are a great option— beans, oatmeal, quinoa, and sweet potatoes are just as good. Avoid sugars and white flours within your daily diet since they contain simple carbs.
2. Always choose food that is rich in micronutrients
One of the best ways to keep your heart healthy is boost your system with vitamins and minerals. The tribe has an entire Amazonian diversity of meats and vegetables, so they had zero micronutrient deficiencies. With good research, you can build your diet packed with all the essential nutrients you need.
For instance, one of the most vital vitamins for your heart is Vitamin B9. It helps your body to create red and white blood cells. You can find it in many natural foods, like broccoli, asparagus, lentils, avocado, and mushrooms. For every vitamin you need, there is a natural way to get it.
3. Full-Fat dairy products are a big No
Lately, many sources have once again favored full-fat dairy to provide minerals, vitamins, and proteins. While this is true, dairies like whole milk are not great options to lower heart disease risk. This is because they contain too many saturated fats, which will then produce high cholesterol levels.
The Tsimanés are living proof that low-fat diets are much better for your health and your heart. As we said before, their daily calorie intake is only composed of 15% fats, and none of them come from dairy foods. Most of the fats they consume are from the natural oils of fish and plants and the many nuts.
With simple changes, you can make a meal a whole lot healthier. If you need oil, go for olive or sesame oil. You can also include some olives, avocado, and even walnuts to add more flavor instead of adding dressings in your salads. After all, diets should be delicious!
4. Remain active for the rest of your life
No matter your age or weight, you must always dedicate a fraction of your time to exercise your body. Sure, most of us won’t be as dynamic and active as the members of the tribe, but starting a workout routine is good enough.
Walking or jogging are great options, but there are many more things you can try out. One of the best ways to make it a priority is to think of it as a starting point rather than a goal. Exercise will be a critical factor in keeping your heart happy and beating for many more years.
Picture by: Quino Al/ Unsplash
We cannot avoid the influences of western dietary patterns because they are everywhere we go. But we can educate ourselves to shape a lifestyle that is cleaner and better for our bodies. It is wrong to associate healthy diets with fancy behaviors or a means to lose weight.
To the Bolivian Amazon’s exceptional people, their meals are the fruits of their lands and their labor. They cultivate their bodies and the places they belong to in the same meticulous manner. It is an important lesson they give to the world.