3 Tribal Superfoods from India that might go Big in 2023
With millets getting massive mainstream limelight, will modern life dwellers with poor gut microbiomes embrace tribal foods, coarse grains and indigenous cuisines?
Among the million reasons why I swoon over Agriculture - my intellectual valentine, if you will - is the uncanny fact that it is the only domain (as far as I know) that carries culture in its underbelly.
(Back in graduate school, I studied mechanical engineering
Examining a food’s underbelly is crucial to not only understanding food’s origins, but also culture’s origins. Cultural evolution, if you approximate it enough in linear terms without being teleological, was designed to prepare homo sapiens (even though we may not be wise) for modern life over a span of 5000 years.
However, in the case of tribals who continue to live among us in wild terms (and could possibly teach us how to rediscover the art of living wildly) in 2023 in pristine parts of the planet, there has been an unexpected phase transition. Our interconnected world is making sure that they become willy-nilly evolutionary guinea pigs in the middle of a swift phase transition from tribal life to modern life over a drastically shorter time span.
The most visible change of this rapid phase transition stares at us in the domain of food and agriculture. If you visit today a tribal community in the Indian state of Chattisgarh, you will see them eat their traditional millet bread along with the gift and curse of the green revolution, white rice.
How well are their gut microbiomes adjusting to this dietary change over a shorter time span?
Conversely, how well will our modern life gut microbiome adjust to our dietary changes when we embrace fads like paleo diets and bring other tribal foods into our guts cosily inured over a longer time span to cooked and processed foods?
These and many questions, I presume are, being undertaken in a global poop vault in Switzerland where scientists are busy storing human faecal samples from traditional tribal societies across the world (while giving them ownership of their microbiome to avoid ethical conflicts)
One fundamental reason why such research studies are important is that today it is extremely clear that for human health, we need a gut microbiome with the kind of rich diversity we see in tribal lives.
In other words, counter-clockwise evolution ought to happen if we care about human health) in the gut microbiome, while clockwise evolution is willy-nilly happening in every other domain.
Today, millets have become a $100 Million mainstream phenomenon in India (the biggest producer of millets), thanks to the collective efforts of entrepreneurs, scientists, activists like Dr. Khader Valli and more importantly, the cultural fabric of this country which has been carrying these coarse grains for millennia.
Indian Government wants to make Millet a silver bullet for Climate change, diabetes (77 Mn people in India have Type-2), water scarcity and food security. It’s a tall order of expectations and we will see how that will play out.
But can we expect other tribal foods to receive the same outpouring of love millet has received? Which tribal foods are expected to get “milletified”? These are my best bets based on the early activity signs I am seeing in the agri-foodtech investor/founder ecosystem.