Back to WHKMLA Main Index . WHKMLA, Students' Papers Main Page . WHKMLA, Students' Papers, 13th Wave Index Page

The History of Nutrition in South America

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Yoon, Sung Ah
Term Paper, AP European History Class, December 2009

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Historic Socio-demographic Influences on South American Nutrition and Diet
II.1 Influence of Migration
II.1.1 Pre-Colombian Influences
II.1.1.1 General
II.1.1.2 Indigenous Cuisine
II.1.1.3 The Valdivia Culture
II.1.1.4 The Aymara
II.1.1.5 The Inca Civilization
II.1.2 European Influence
II.1.3 African Influence
II.1.4 Asian Influence
II.2 Cuisine by Region
II.2.1 Standard for Division of Regions
II.2.2 Cuisine in the Southern Cone Nations
II.2.2.1 General
II.2.2.2 Argentina
II.2.3 Cuisine in Brazil
II.2.4 Cuisine in the Andean states
II.2.4.1 General
II.2.4.2 Peru
II.2.5 Cuisine in the Caribbean South America
II.2.5.1 General
II.2.5.2 Guyana
II.3 Nutrition by Social Class
II.3.1 General
II.3.2 Case study: Brazil
III. History of Malnutrition and Famine
IV. Conclusion

I. Introduction
            South America is the fourth largest continent, with the fifth largest population in the world. It was named ¡°America¡± by the cartographers in 1507 after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci credited with first realizing the continent was not the East Indies. Like its northern neighbor, South America was explored, exploited and settled by Europeans for centuries, yet it was able to maintain more of its traditional dishes and cuisine of Native Indian origins than its northern neighbor. The influx of Africans, Europeans, and Asians has contributed to creating a unique cuisine of a mixture of Pre-Colombian Native Indian cuisine and diverse elements from around the world. As well as the cultural and demographic influences, the geography and biodiversity of the continent has also helped shape the diversity of cuisine in South America; ranging from the Amazonian rainforests stretched across Brazil to the Andes along the western coast, from Salar de Uyuni the world's largest salt flats to the world¡¯s driest desert, the Atacama Desert. However, the nutritional status in South America is polarized, with much malnutrition and a low GDP. This paper will address these three issues: the socio-demographic influences on South American nutrition, different cuisine and cooking style by region and South America¡¯s nutritional and health status.

II. History of Socio-demographic Influences on South American Nutrition and Diet

II.1 The Influence of Migration

II.1.1 Pre-Columbian South America

II.1.1.1 General
            Pre-Colombian refers to the Americas during the time period before the appearance of Europeans, marked by Christopher Colombus¡¯s arrival in 1492 CE. South America is believed to have been first inhabited when people crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Asia and spread into the Americas. The first evidence of agriculture in South America dating back to 6500 BCE suggests that potatoes, chilies, and beans were cultivated in the Amazon. Pottery evidence also shows that manioc, also called cassava or yucca, a plant cultivated for its starchy root and a staple food, was being cultivated as early as 2000 BCE.
            Ceramic dating shows the earliest permanent settlement to be in Valdivia on the coast of Ecuador. Other indigenous groups also occupied the continent, among which the Chibchas of Colombia, Valdivia of Ecuador, the Quechuas of Peru, and the Aymara of Bolivia were the most important.

II.1.1.2 Indigenous Cuisine
            Much of today¡¯s cuisine stems from the indigenous people¡¯s diet. Common food crops were quinoa, corn, lima beans, common beans, peanuts, manioc, sweet potatoes, potatoes, oca, chile peppers, avocadoes, chocolate and squashes. Llamas and guinea pigs were also raised as meat sources.
            Grilled guinea pigs, originally domesticated in the Andes area, remain a popular dish, with 65 million guinea pigs consumed in Peru every year. Corn has been cultivated for over 500 years and is the ingredient for traditional dishes such as arepas (cornbread), tamales (corn dough with various meat, cheese, chili fillings), pasteles (casseroles or savory tarts), Saraiaka (a corn liquor) and chicha, an ancient yet still popular fermented drink. Chicha is the name used for indigenous beers in general, and although corn is the most common, chicha made from amaranth, quinoa, peanut, potato and coca are also found throughout the continent.
            Potatoes, another ancient staple food, is also the key ingredient in many dishes such as Llapingachos, a dish of fried, mashed potatoes originated in the Ecuadorian Highlands. Cerviches, a citrus-marinated seafood which could be called the national food of Peru, is also an ancient dish originated in Pre-Colombian Peru, when Peruvian civilizations greatly relied on fishing, which is now popular in other Latin American countries each with variations. Before citrus was first brought to America by the Spaniards, tumbo was traditionally used, although today it is almost always marinated with citrus fruits.
            Another popular beverage unique to South America is mate (pronounced with an accent on the last e), said to originated from the Brazilian Guarani people. It is a caffeinated, tea-like drink which is said to have many medicinal properties such as energizing the body, losing weight, strengthening the immune system and stimulating mental activity. The national drink in the southern cone states such as Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, it is prepared by brewing dried yerba mate leaves from the tree Ilex paraguarensis and drunk in a hollow calabash gourd and a special metal straw called bombilla. Sharing a mate has the social symbolic meaning of a bond of friendship and total acceptance. Drinking mate is something of a tradition and social phenomenon in South America where it is common to families drinking mate together or people in the streets drinking mate out of gourds.

II.1.1.3 The Valdivia Culture
            The Valdivia culture is one of the oldest cultures in the Americas, located in Ecuador between 3500 BCE and 1800 BCE. The Valdivia lived in communities which built houses in a circle around a plaza. From archeological remains, it has been found that the Valdivians cultivated maize, squash, kidney beans, cassava, hot peppers and cotton plants. The people lived sedentary farming and fishing village lives and were famous for their figurine pottery.

II.1.1.4 The Aymara
            The Aymara have lived in the Andes in today's Western Bolivia, Southern Peru and Northern Chile. They were conquered by the Incas, but retained some autonomy under the Inca Empire. Chewing coca plant is a tradition of the Aymara as well as the Quechua. The leaves were offered to the sun god Inti and the earth goddess Pachamama and were important parts of the community healing ceremonies of yaiiti. Recently, the conflict between this cultural practice and efforts of the United States government to eradicate the drug cocaine has made the practice a symbol of cultural identity and autonomy. The current President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, of Aymara descent, has been leading the cocalero movement with coca farmers, resisting these efforts.

II.1.1.5 The Inca Civilization
            The Inca Civilization, whose descendants formed the Quechuas, began as a tribe in the Cuzco area and became the Inca Empire (Tawantinsuyu) in the highlands of Peru in the early 13th century. The Empire prospered and expanded through conquest. Before it was ravaged by the Conquistadores led by Francisco Pizarro, the Inca civilization included parts of modern Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, northern Argentina, north-central Chile, and Southern Colombia. Since the Incas were centered around the Andes, their food and diet formed much of the Andes cuisine. The Incas had an extensive road system which allowed them to distribute food stuff over a wide area.
            The Incas lived in hhigh altitude areas in the mountain. In order to farm, they cut terraces into the slopes and used irrigation to grow maize, quinoa, tomatoes, peanuts, potatoes, squash and chili peppers for their diet. Grain was above all of importance and there were varieties of grain. Unlike the Aztecs and Mayas whose main staple was maize, the Incas relied more on potatoes as their staple. Quinoa was especially important and was referred to as "chisaya mama" or "mother of all grains." Camelid meat from llamas and alpacas and guinea pigs were consumed as meat as well as other wild animals.
            The Incas had storehouses of food scattered around the empire so that a travelling army would never go hungry. The food was stored by freeze-drying. Potatoes would be frozen by being left out in the night. After daybreak, temperatures rose and the water evaporated, leaving the dried potato pulp, known as chu?o, which would last up to one year. Similarly freeze-drying was used to preserve meat; freeze-dried llama charqui was popular in tambos (Incan inns).
            Another popular modern food originating from the Incas was popcorn, made from maize. At meals, chicha would be consumed instead of water; in fact, one Inca researcher noted that water was hardly ever consumed. Coca leaves, the raw ingredients of cocaine, were chewed afterwards for their soothing and medicinal effects.

II.1.2 European Influences
            Before the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, dividing the newly discovered lands including South America, between Spain and Portugal, South America was populated by an estimated 30 million people. Beginning in the 1530s, South America and its indigenous people were exploited by Spanish and later Portuguese conquistadors who divided the continent into territories and colonies. One of the greatest impact of the arrival of the Europeans was the demographic change. European diseases such as smallpox, measles, influenza and typhus were unknown to the people in South America who had no biological resistance to them. This resulted in the population being decimated by diseases. It was in order to find a labor force for plantations that would be resistant to diseases that Europeans brought in Africans to replace Native Americans.
            Europeans did not only bring diseases with them; they also brought pigs, cows, chicken, goats, citrus fruits, wheat, and almonds. European settlers learned to make Spanish, Italian, Portuguese dishes using available South American ingredients and South Americans started developing new dishes with these newly incorporated sources of food. Some dishes brought to South American by the Europeans include: balcalhau, milanesa and empanada.
            Balcalhau, a dish of salted, dry cod-fish popular in Spain, Portugal and Galicia, is an example of how European dishes became popular part of the South American diet. This dish was especially popular in Roman Catholic countries because of the many days in which meat was forbidden and replaced by fish. South America is notably approximately 90-95 % Roman Catholic, which may explain the popularity of balcalhau and "Bolinhos de bacalhau," or "codfish cakes," in countries such as Brazil.
            Milanesa, a dish of breaded meat fillet, is also a dish common in Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and other countries brought to the South Cone of South America by European immigrants. The name reflects the original dish "cotoletta alla Milanese," a dish similar to Austria¡¯s Wiener Schnitzel.
            Empanada refers to a stuffed savory pastry with different fillings such as chicken, beef, shrimp, cheese, dried tomatoes, codfish etc. The Galician fillings originating from empanadas in Galicia are usually cod fish or pork loin fillings. Due to the large number of Galician settlers, the empagnada gallega has become the most popular in that region.

II.1.3 African Influences
            African slaves of the trans-Atlantic slave trade were brought into South America because their immunity to European diseases and their strong physical constituency made them suitable for the harsh conditions and climate of plantation life. Ships of the slave trade headed towards Brazil and the Caribbean islands, where slaves were sold for sugar plantations (engenhos). At first the Portuguese had relied on the native Tupani for slave labor; however, in 1570 a series of epidemics decimated the already weak Tupani communities, and by 1630, Africans had replaced the Tupanis as the largest source of labor on Brazilian sugar plantations. Brazil was the largest destination for African slaves, with 38.5 % of the distribution of slaves from 1519 to 1867, compared to the next popular destination British America (not including Northern America) with 18.4 %. (1) Brazil has the largest black population outside of Africa.
            African influences can be seen in the use of coconut milk and palm oil (dende), especially in Brazil where African influence on the South American demography as well as the cuisine, is most apparent. The state of Bahias, the center location of the slave trade, shows the African influence and imprint in culture and customs. Afro-Brazilian Bahian dishes include Vatap?, a creamy paste of bread, shrimp, coconut milk and palm oil and moqueca, a seafood stew which add palm oil (dende), coconut milk, shrimp or crab to the basic ingredients.
            Africans also developed their own different dishes from their circumstances in South American as slaves. Menudo, a spicy soup made with tripe and often used as a cure for a hangover in South America and Mexico, originated from the Spaniards giving African slaves cow intestines and offals. Slaves found a way of cleaning the offal and seasoning it. Today, it is served with lime, chopped onions, and chopped cilantro and sometimes also crushed oregano and extra crushed red chili peppers added for a spicier taste.

II.1.4 Asian Influences
            A wave of Asian immigration also influenced South American cuisine. Filipinos settled in South America due to Spain¡¯s trade involving Asia and the Americas. The majority of Asian immigrants were Japanese or Chinese in Brazil and Peru; Brazil has the largest ethnic Japanese community outside of Japan. Brazil has 1.49 million people of Asian descent and Peru has one of the largest Chinese communities in the world with almost 1 million in Peru of Chinese ancestry
            East Asians brought with them rice and Asian dishes. Peruvian tacu-tacu is a dish of a mix of rice and beans.

II.2 Cuisine by Region

II.2.1 Division of Region
            South America includes thirteen nations: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Falkland Islands, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela. The Falkland Islands and French Guiana are respectively overseas territory of the United Kingdom and France. The countries can be grouped into four based on their ethnic composition and geography. The Southern Cone Nations include Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. The Andean States are Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. Caribbean South America includes nations on the Caribbean coast French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela. Brazil, occupying almost half of the continent, and the only country with a Portuguese majority, qualifies as one region. These territories are not based on any absolute guidelines and are merely rough divisions based on ethnic, geographic considerations for convenience's sake.

II.2.2 Cuisine in the Southern Cone Nations

II.2.2.1 General
            The Southern Cone nations, comprised of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay enjoy relative prosperity within the continent, with the highest Human Development Index in the continent, high standards of living and emerging economic markets. With the exception of Paraguay, these nations have a high white-majority and were the most influenced by European immigration. Argentina is considered to be an immigrant nation with 90 % of the population of European descent. Native Indians only take up 2 % of the population in the Southern Cone nations although Paraguay has a mestizo (mixed European and Amerindian) majority of 20 %. In Uruguay the population is mostly of Spanish and Italian descent, and although 12 % of the population consists of mestizos and blacks, the indigenous population is now extinct. Although indigenous cooking style has still remained, the Southern Cone nations¡¯ cuisine is distinctively more European than the other regions in South America.

II.2.2.2 Argentina
            Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world and has a wide range of fauna and flora thanks to its diverse geography. Before the arrival of Europeans, Argentina was sparsely populated. The Diaguita, in the northwest, and on the edge of the Inca Civilization, were agricultural and cultivated various staple foods while the Guarani, on the farther east and north east, were nomadic hunters. In the North were the Quechua and in the South lived the Mapuche. Local Indians introduced squash, sweet potatoes and coconuts to the Argentinean palate. Cattle, which would profoundly influence Argentinean cuisine was brought to the pampas in the 1550s. Andalusians formed huge cattle ranches hanciendas. (2)
            European immigration brought with it European culinary habits and tastes. European influence is evident in dishes such as Italian pizza, al dente pasta and milanesas (veal cutlets), French style bread instead of traditional tortillas, facturas (Viennese-style pastry), empanada gallega (Galician pastry), flan (a popular caramel dessert from Europe) and seasonings such as parsley, fresh oregano, paprika, thyme and bay leaves. Many of these dishes were changed from their European original by including South American elements. For example, in Argentina every region has a different recipe and filling for empanadas. For instance empanadas in inner regions of Argentina are often spiced with peppers while Empanadas from the region Salta, called Empanadas salte?as, are known for having potatoes, the beef or goat meat and diverse varieties of red pepper as fillings.
            Argentina is famous for its meat consumption and has the highest red meat consumption per capita in the world. Beef steak or ribs grilled or roasted (asado) with chimichurri sauce, a sauce of herbs, garlic and vinegar is considered a staple. Other popular meat dishes include Chorizo (spicy pork sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), chinchulines (chitterlings), and mollejas (sweetbread, i.e. the thymus or pancreas of calves or lambs).
            Indigenous dishes still enjoyed by Argentines include locro (a thick corn and meat stew originating from the Andes region and now considered a national dish in Argentina that it is often served on May 25th on the anniversary of the May Revolution), humitas (a Pre-Hispanic dish or masa harina and corn slowly cooked in oil) and yerba mate, considered the national drink and popular in Southern Cone nations.

II.2.3 Cuisine in Brazil
            Brazil is the largest, occupying nearly half of South America, and only Portuguese speaking country in South America. The Portuguese arrived in Brazil in 1500 in a fleet commanded by Pedro ?lvares Cabral which landed in the present state of Bahia. The Portuguese planted sugar cane in Brazil and intended to use the indigenous people as slave workforce. However, the indigenous people were difficult to capture and died in large numbers from being infected by European diseases. Thus the Portuguese brought in West African slaves who brought with them their culture.
            Brazil¡¯s cuisine is influenced by three different cultures: the Native Amerindian, the Portuguese and the African. After the 19th century other European immigrants from Spain, Italy, France and Germany and immigrants from Asia and the Middle East also contributed to the multi-racial composition of Brazil, but they did not lastingly influence or evolve the Brazilian cuisine.
            The indigenous people of Brazil already mastered preserving meats through smoking and drying by the time Portugal colonized Brazil in 1533. (3)
            The Portuguese brought their culinary customs, heavily influenced by 300 years of Moorish life. Examples of Portuguese influence on Brazilian cuisine included balcalho and empahinhos. The Portuguese brought their own recipes but changed them using locally available ingredients. However it was the African cooks in the colonial kitchens of sugar cane plantations who were the strongest influences. The Portuguese brought with them West African slaves and with them their cooking styles. The use of coconut milk, peppers and dende (palm oil) are among the ingredients introduced by African slaves. Afro-Brazilian cooking is especially distinct in Bahia where most of the African slaves inhabited. Vatapa and moqueca are famous Bahian dishes.
            The Brazilian national dish is Feijoda, a stew of beans with beef and pork. It was brought to South American by the Portuguese who used ancient recipes from the Portuguese regions of Beira, Estremadura and Tr?s-os-Montes.

II.2.4 Cuisine in the Andean states

II.2.4.1 General
            Nations of the Andes region include a part of the Andes mountain range within their borders and can be grouped together for sharing a common ancestry. These countries share a common culture such as the Quechua language. Influenced by the Inca Empire, they also share a similar cuisine. For more detail about the influence of the Inca Empire on cuisine, see II.A.1.5 Inca Civilization.

II.2.4.2 Peru
            Peru¡¯s cuisine has been influenced by the Incan Empire and the Spanish Viceroyalty, which established Limas as its capital, as well as the influx of immigrants from all around the world. Perhaps it is due to this diversity that Peruvian cuisine is regarded as "one of the world's dozen or so great cuisines." (4)
            Peru also has a very genetically diverse selection of crops, with almost 2000 different varieties of Potato, 2000 different species of fish, 650 native fruits and 35 varieties of corn (maize). The diversity in cuisine is in part, a result of biodiversity, ethnic diversity, and its geography and climate. As well as sharing the Andean mountains with other nations, Peru also has a coast open to the Pacific Ocean with the cold Humboldt current, which results in a climatic diversity.
            Coastal cuisine differs from North to South, with the North having a warmer seas and a hotter climate. The Peruvian coast is rich in fish and aquatic life; many of them are endemic to the Peruvian Coast. Coastal cuisine was much influenced by the Japanese, the Moorish, the African, the Chinese and the local native. The capital of Peru, Lima, is the center of Peru's diverse gastronomy and was also declared the "Gastronomic Capital of the Americas." It was not only the capital of the Spanish Viceroyalty and brought with it the cuisine of the Spanish Conquistadors, but also served as a center of international immigration from Africa, China, Japan and Europe, resulting in a diverse Creole cuisine. Andean diet is based on potatoes, corn (maize), and an assortment of tubers as has been since the Inca Civilization. Meat comes from alpacas, guinea pigs and sometimes from imported livestock such as pig and sheep. The jungles of Peru also have a distinct cuisine. Paiche, a large freshwater fish, and turtles are native to the jungles although today, a ban in turtle hunting has rarified turtle dishes. Among some of the fruits of the jungle is camu camu, which contains 40 times more vitamin C than kiwis, as well as mango and pineapple.

II.2.5 Cuisine in the Caribbean South America

II.2.5.1 General
            With a predominantly East Indian and African ethnic composition, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana stand out in ethnicity and culture from the rest of the continent. Also, they are one of five countries in South America which is not Spanish-speaking; Guyana is one of the only Anglophone nations, while the official language of Suriname is Dutch, French Guiana, French. The cuisine has many similarities to the cuisine of the Caribbean islands from which it was influenced.

II.2.5.2 Guyana
            Inhabited by the Arawak and Carib tribes of the Amerindians, the Dutch established colonies from 1616 until the British took over control in the 1814. Many indentured workers from Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Malta, China, India, and Vietnam came in to work on sugar plantations. Thus Guianese cuisine reflects diverse influences. Indian influences included dishes such as curry, roti and rice and British influence is reflected in the traditional art of homemade bread-making in many villages that includes pastries such as cheese roll, pine tarts and patties.

III. Nutrition by Social Class

III.1 Brazil
            Brazil ranks among the world's highest nations in the Gini coefficient index of inequality assessment, ranking 56.7 in the Gini coefficient index - with the richest 10 % of Brazilians receiving 50 % of the nation¡¯s income, while the poorest 10 % receive less than 1 %.

Table 1. Infant Mortality Rates by Regions of Brazil (per 1,000 live births) (5)
Region 1970 1980 1991 2000
North 180.07 135.12 48.93 41.14
Northeast 111.71 71.01 74.35 64.25
Southeast 97.34 61.08 34.42 27.46
South 80.95 51.69 28.93 23.59
Center West 92.22 59.59 38.60 31.00
Brazil 123.55 85.30 49.45 34.08

            Table 1. shows that infant mortality is the highest in the Northeast, and the North of Brazil while lowest in the South. This reflects the fact that Northern Brazil covered by the Amazon, has the largest indigenous population and that Northeastern Brazil has the largest African-Brazilian population, a result of the influence of the slave trade and sugar plantation economy of the region; Over 80 % of the inhabitants of Salvador, Bahia are African-Brazilian.
            In Southern Brazil as well as in Argentina and Uruguay, a special situation exists where a large segment of the population base their diet on beef while subsistence farmers in the country continue to grow what they eat and city-dwellers reply on a cereal or fiber and legume based diet.
            Many mulattoes, creoles, Amerindians and blacks live in favelas, shanty towns with a predominantly black makeup. Favelas were created with urbanization in the 1970s when farm modernization programs increased basic food prices, leading to a rural crisis and mass city migration. Food insecurity in Brazil is a problem in these areas where the diet of slum-dwellers is of poor quality; legume consumption decreased and malnutrition increased. A census from 1990 showed that 32 million people in Brazil were food insecure, roughly 22 % of the population. This group had an annual income of about US$170, which is insufficient to buy a food basket. Those who suffer from food insecurity are concentrated in the northeast region, with the highest number of indigenous people (17.2 million) and the highest number of food insecure (10 million). Bahia and Minas Gerais have the highest number of food insecure, again showing that regions with a high percentage of nonwhites have a high number of food insecure. (6)
            The diet of the higher-income groups, mostly of European ancestry, are similar to North American or Western European diets, with a high consumption of animal foods, vegetables and sugars.

III. History of Malnutrition and Famine

Table 2. Ethnic composition of the population in South America (7)
Country Population of Indigenous Population of Part Indigenous Indigenous Combined Population of White
Argentina 1.0 2 3 97
Bolivia 55 30 85 15
Brazil 0.4 53.7
Chile 4.6
Colombia 1 61 62 20
Ecuador 25 65 90
Peru 45 37 82 15
Uruguay 0 8 8 88

            As evident from Table 2, Countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have a high indigenous populations whereas in countries such as Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela they are a minority. Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are all countries where the Andes are a predominant part of the geography.
            In contrast to other regions in South America, the Andes region was able to have a very nutritious diet because of high protein staples, one of them being quinoa. Considered sacred by the Incas, called "la chisiya marna" or "the mother grain," and grown at 3,000 to 6,000 meter above sea level, Peruvians and Bolivians developed terracing in the mountains to cultivate their quinoa, a method which enabled them to succeed despite droughts and freezing temperatures common in the altiplano region
            Also called "supergrain," quinoa supplies the body with all of its nutritional requirements: carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. One-half cup of cooked quinoa contains 15.5 mg of calcium, compared to 8.5 mg in the same quantity of cooked whole-wheat cereal. The protein content is a whopping 4.1g for that one-half cup of cooked quinoa. Potassium is impressively high with 159 mg. as is zinc with 1 mg. Other impressive figures include 1.38 mg of iron, and 59 mg magnesium. In the category of fiber quinoa rates top scores with 2.6 grams for one-half cup cooked grain. Because quinoa has an adequate quantity of lysine, it is considered to contain all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Quinoa contains more protein and lysine than common wheat and has well-balanced amino acid content comparable to whole milk.

Table 3. Prevalence of undernourishment in total population (%) (8)
Country 1990-1992 1995-1997 2000-2002 2004-2006
Bolivia 24 20 20 23
Brazil 10 10 9 6
Chile 7
Colombia 15 11 10 10
Ecuador 24 17 19 13
Peru 28 20 12 13
Uruguay 5

            From Table 3 this we can conclude that the impact of European migration in the 1500s and 1600s was much less in these regions, not only because they were geopgraphically on the West coast but also because of the Andes which provided not only a barrier but a nutritionally rich, protein sufficient diet. This may also be a part explanation as to why most of the indigenous people in other regions dies from diseases, while the indigenous of the Andes region were able to survive in larger numbers.
            However, today, statistics (Table 3) show that Brazil has a lower malnutrition prevalence than the countries in the Andes. This is reflected in the fact that Brazil has a now predominantly a population European ancestry. (white 53.7 %, mulatto (mixed white and black) 38.5 %, black 6.2 %, other (includes Japanese, Arab, Amerindian) 0.9 %, unspecified 0.7 % (CIA 2000 census) ) while countries like Bolivia still have a population largely consisting of indigenous peoples: Quechua 30 %, mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry) 30 %, Aymara 25 %. This could be explained by the fact that quinoa farming has decreased since European colonization; the Spanish were fearful of the plant quinoa and forbade planting it in many regions. Although many resisted by farming quinoa higher up in the mountains in terraces, quinoa cultivation decreased. Thus, although the indigenous were able to survive in the Andes region today many of them are today living in impoverished conditions with lack of nutrition.

IV. Conclusion
            Although it is difficult to generalize the nutritional history and status of a whole continent, this paper was able to examine and conclude several points. Firstly, that the cuisine of the countries in South America largely depend on its demographics; Pre-Colombian aborigines and the migration of European colonists, African slaves, and Asian indentured laborers enabled a cultural and muticontinental blend. Secondly, we found that geography plays a huge part in deciding differences among regions; for example the Andes and the Amazon forest, also shaped not only the cuisine but the nutritional status of various regions ? the people of the Andes were able to have a much more protein-sufficient from their staple, the quinoa, which enabled most of the indigenous people to survive. Lastly, we examined the social classes within Brazil and examined how nutritional statistics differ from social classes and ethnicity.


1.      Statistics from Stephen D. Behrendt, David Richardson, and David Eltis, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research, Harvard University. Based on "records for 27,233 voyages that set out to obtain slaves for the Americas".
2.      For more information: see Wikipedia : Argentine Beef
3.      For more information:
4.      Declared at the Fourth International Summit of Gastronomy Madrid Fusi?n 2006 held in Spain between January 17 and 19
5.      Source: Fundaçao IBGE, Census of Population, 1991 and 2000.
6.      Further in-depth analysis and study can be found in the FAO Brazil food Profile:
7.      Source: CIA World Fact book 2002 Census
8.      Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2009 November Census


Note : websites quoted below were visited in October 2009.

Bibliographic sources
1.      Food and Culture in South America from the World Food Habits Bibliography

Primary Sources
2.      WHO Diet, nutrition and prevention of chronic diseases report :

Secondary Sources
3.      WHKMLA : Historial Atlas South America
4.      Jan Lahmeyer, Population Statistics
5.      CIA The World Factbook
6.      Article : History of South America., Encyclopsaedia Britannica Online 2009.
7.      America (continents of), Vol.1 Beach, Chandler B. and McMurry, Frank Morton (ed.) The New Students Reference Books. F.E Compton and Company: Chicago 1914
8.      Blazes, Marian. An Introduction to South American Food: History and culture.
9.      Geography of Southwestern Cuisine. Journal of the Southwest, Vol. 43, 2001.
11.      Hamre, Bonnie. South America for Visitors.
12.      James, Delores C. S. Diet of South Americans
13.      Pilcher, Jeffrey M. . "Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex New Mex, or Whose Mex ? Notes on the Historical "South American Cuisine and Recipes."
14.      Argentina: Recipes and Cuisine
15.      Brazil: Recipes and Cuisine <>
16.      Chile: Recipes and Cuisine <>
17.      Peru: Recipes and Cuisine
18.      Venezuela: Recipes and Cuisine <>
19.      Global Destinations : Brazil, from Global Gourmet
20.      Article : Culture of Guyana, from Wikipedia
21.      Article : Guyana, from Wikipedia <>
22.      Article : Peruvian cuisine, from Wikipedia
23.      Guyana Cuisine
24.      Super Food that heals: Quinoa
25.      Ethologue country index <>
26.      Titus Didactica: Language map of South America
27.      Food of the Inca
28.      Article : Inca Civilization, from Wikipedia
29.      Article : Agentine Beef : History, from Wikipedia,

Back to WHKMLA Main Index . WHKMLA, Students' Papers Main Page . WHKMLA, Students' Papers, 12th Wave Index Page

Impressum · Datenschutz