What Do Maasai People Eat?

maasai-people-eat Credit: Jim, the Photographer/CC-BY 2.0

The chief staple of the Maasai diet is cattle's milk, an element that makes the tribe's diet high in both protein and fat. Modern Maasai also integrate grains, particularly maize meal, to balance out vitamin deficiency. Some Maasai also harvest crops such as rice, cabbage and potato. In general, however, the Maasai consider widespread agriculture as harmful to the environment and detrimental to grazing, their society's central practice.

Modern social, agricultural and political realities have forced changes in the traditional food consumption patterns of the Maasai people. Originally, their diet consisted mainly of raw milk, meat and blood taken from their herds. Blood, in particular, was thought to aid in the recuperation of a wide number of persons, including those recovering from circumcision, childbirth, general illness and even hangovers. Modern Maasai consume less raw meat and blood, though milk is still consumed daily as an individual drink, or added to sweet tea.

Maize meal, called "unga wa mahindi" by the Maasai, is typically served in liquid form or as a more solid porridge. Though vegetables achieve relatively low priority in the Maasai diet, they are often added to soups. Acacia nilotica is one example of a Maasai soup plant, and it is thought to bolster energy, aggression and even courage. The root of the plant is boiled in water before being consumed alone or within soup.

Surprisingly, despite the high-fat content of their milk-based diet, modern Maasai demonstrate very little susceptibility to conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease. While some scientists attribute this phenomenon to the prolific amount of walking done by this pastoralist people, others suggest that genetics or even the seasonality of testing might be influences.