Contribution of Selected Traditional and Market Foods to the Diet of Nunavik Inuit Women

Can J Diet Pract Res. Summer 2000;61(2):50-59.


Food composition data were determined for food consumed by 226 Inuit women in Nunavik, estimating the relative contribution of traditional and market food for energy, protein, lipid, carbohydrate, vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, and eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. Traditional Inuit food was an important source of protein, vitamin D, iron, selenium, and phosphorus, as well as the main source of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. The mean contribution of traditional and market food to energy and nutrients was analyzed according to age groups (18-39 and 40-74). Analysis of Inuit women's nutrient intake showed that the contribution of traditional food was greater in the older group than in the younger group, for whom the contribution of market food was greater. Market food contributed the most to Inuit women's energy intake, while 40% of the intake of several nutrients, including protein, vitamin D, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, was derived from traditional food. Inuit women had low vitamin A and calcium intakes. Traditional food had low calcium and vitamin A concentrations, and the Inuit infrequently consumed market food such as milk, dairy products, and yellow and green vegetables. Thus, even though the present study showed that traditional food was the major source of many nutrients in the Inuit diet, market food was also important for the nutritional status of this population, particularly young women. In promoting safe nutritional habits among the Inuit, dietitians must help them maintain traditional food use, which has provided some health advantages (e.g., a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease); encourage consumption of nutritious market foods; and consider the societal values reflected in the traditional diet.