Issue 4
Monday, 10 April 2017
Charles Darwin University
Almost 90 per cent of people in remote communities consume traditional foods each fortnight
Almost 90 per cent of people in remote communities consume traditional foods each fortnight

Traditional food ‘key to remote health’

By Paul Dale

Most Aboriginal people living in remote Northern Territory communities use traditional foods regularly in their diets, according to research from Menzies School of Health Research published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

The paper, entitled “Traditional food availability and consumption in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory”, reports that a nutritious diet including traditional foods plays a key role in protecting against chronic disease for Indigenous people living in remote communities.

Menzies researcher and lead author Megan Ferguson said that in addition to demonstrating significant health benefits, traditional foods remained an integral part of identity, culture and country, while also alleviating food insecurity in remote communities.

She said surveys conducted in remote NT communities revealed almost 90 per cent of people consumed a variety of traditional foods each fortnight.

“We have long understood that native animal and plant foods are highly nutritious,” Ms Ferguson said. “There is no evidence that Indigenous people had diabetes or cardiovascular disease whilst maintaining a diet of traditional foods, and it has been shown that reverting to a traditional diet can improve health.

“In relation to food insecurity we also found that 40 per cent of people obtained traditional food when they would otherwise go without food due to financial hardship or limited access to stores.”

The list of traditional food reported during the research was extensive and included echidna, goanna, mud mussel, long-neck turtle and witchetty grubs and native plant foods including green plum, yam and bush onion.

The 20 remote NT communities surveyed reported that traditional foods were available year-round.

Ms Ferguson said there was still much to be learnt about the important contribution traditional foods made to nutrition and health outcomes.

The article is available at W:

The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The contents of the published material are solely the responsibility of the individual authors and do not reflect the views of the NHMRC. Associate Professor Julie Brimblecombe is supported through a National Heart Foundation Fellowship.