What Did the Native Americans Eat Prior to the European Settlements?


Quick Answer

Prior to the arrival of the European settlers, the Native Americans lived on a diet that consisted primarily of what were referred to as "the three sisters," which were the agricultural staples of corn, squash and beans. These foods provided sufficient nutrients, vitamins and calories to enable the pre-colonial Native Americans to consume a regular and healthy diet in which the only source of sugar was honey and no white flour products were included. The early European settlers and explorers recorded in their journals that the Native Americans were remarkably fit, robust, and according to their descriptions, comparatively free of unnecessary body fat.

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Full Answer

The pre-colonial Native American diet also included meat that was obtained through hunting, but because of the time and effort involved in pursuing game, the larger portion of their diet consisted of what was grown. Corn was the predominant Native American food source and more than 20 varieties were cultivated. There were also a wide variety of gourds and squashes, which provided a food source that could be easily stored for later use during the winter season.

Corn and beans were also stored for the winter season after being dried, and were effectively reconstituted through soaking and made into stews. Dried corn was ground and made into cornmeal, cakes and the predecessor of what is now called grits. A corn-based stew called "sofkee-nitkee" was often cooked in a large pot, and it included bits of fish and meat.

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