Researchers from Menzies School of Health Research found that such diets among the Northern Territory Aboriginals they followed played a key role in protecting them against chronic disease.
Their study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, also acknowledged the role traditional foods played in terms of identity and culture, while also helping maintain food insecurity in remote communities.
Lead author Megan Ferguson said that almost nine out of 10 subjects still regularly consumed traditional foods.
“We have long understood that native animal and plant foods are highly nutritious. There is no evidence that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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% of people obtained traditional food when they would otherwise go without food due to financial hardship or limited access to stores,” she added.
The 20 remote communities in the study reported that traditional foods were available year round.
Ferguson said there was still much to be learnt about the contribution of traditional foods to nutrition and health outcomes.
“This is crucial to informing broader policy that affects where people live, how they are educated, employment and other livelihood opportunities,” she said.