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Food Tribes Are Us?

April 29, 2014 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Are you part of a food tribe? Maybe you are and haven’t realized it yet.

In our multicultural and diverse society, where all kinds of food are available in all kinds of places, many people don’t follow a traditional way of eating. In the absence of strong cultural food practices food tribes have emerged to help answer the question of "What and how should we be eating?"

Food tribes are the communities that are built when groups of people have shared identities based on the types of food they eat or avoid. Each food tribe has a different opinion of what healthy eating is.

Some Food Tribes:

  • The low carb high protein tribe 
  • The low fat tribe
  • The no-gluten tribe
  • The super-foods tribe
  • The no added sugar tribe
  • The natural/organic food tribe
  • The no-processed food tribe
  • The local food tribe
  • The vegan/vegetarian tribe
  • The raw food tribe
  • The "I don’t eat (fill in the blank)" tribe
  • The "I eat anything" tribe
  • The latest nutrition research and findings tribe

As you can imagine, food tribes often disagree on what kinds of food we should be eating. The concept of the food tribe can help explain why we so often come across conflicting and confusing nutrition information. Are carbs bad for your health? Sounds like it if you listen to someone in the Paleo food tribe. Is gluten toxic? The gluten avoiding tribe can sure make it seem so. Should you eliminate animal products from your menu? The vegan tribe would recommend that.

When you receive confusing nutrition information it may help to try and identify if that information is coming from a specific food tribe. Food tribes often passionately believe that their way of eating is the best and may exaggerate the benefits of a particular way of eating.

Belonging to one, or more, food tribes isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just important to be aware that the nutrition information promoted by a food tribe is likely skewed to support the shared beliefs and values of that tribe.

For balanced and well researched advice on healthy eating, connect with one of the Registered Dietitians at HealthLink BC by calling 8-1-1 toll free. You can also browse or search HealthLink BC's library of online healthy eating topics.

Credit for ‘Food Tribes’ concept: Shore, R. Food Tribes: Making up the rules as we go. The Vancouver Sun (Weekend Review). 2014 March 15:Sect.D:1.

Related Posts:

STRIP for the Truth: Online Food and Nutrition
Lessons from the Paleo Diet (part 1)
Lessons from the Paleo Diet (part 2)
Read this before Starting a Gluten-Free Diet
Cleansing and Detox Diets

Recommended Resources:

HealthLink BC: The Fact Sheet Generator
HealthLink BC: Healthy Eating Topics

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