First, fly into Chihuahua City, Mexico. Then, find a trustworthy driver and head 200 miles southwest, toward the Barranca del Cobre, or Copper Canyon. At some point, the roads end. Only after trekking deep in the remote canyons on foot will you find the reclusive Tarahumara people.
Isolated from the modern world, the Tarahumara live as they have for centuries. Renowned worldwide for their incredible athletic ability, Tarahumara men will run hundreds of miles between villages in one day. Even more incredible, they’ll continue running the deep gorges and steep mountains well into their 80s and 90s.
Running is just a regular part of life for the natives. And the way they run couldn’t be more different from elite marathoners: They wear thin, leather sandals instead of heavy athletic shoes and take short, quick steps instead of long, bounding strides.
But nutrition is perhaps the most important part of the equation. The Tarahumara have already become well-known for consuming chia seeds as an energy drink, but the special dish they eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is even more noteworthy. Known as pinole, this hot cornmeal porridge forms the cornerstone of their diet and is the perfect fuel for runners as it’s rich in protein, fiber, and complex carbs.
To prepare pinole, the Tarahumara slow-roast a rare variety of purple maize in a wood-burning adobe oven. Raw cacao beans are often thrown in with the corn to impart a smoky chocolate flavor. After roasting, the maize and cacao are ground into meal with a mortar and pestle, and finally aromatic spices and milk are stirred in until it forms a thick porridge.
In this tribe, there’s no diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or obesity.
Between chia, pinole, corn and beans, their diet—high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat and cholesterol—not only gives the Tarahumara the energy they need for long treks through the canyon, but also appears to protect them from chronic diseases. In this tribe, there’s no diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or obesity. Though researchers can’t pinpoint exactly why, they suspect it all goes back to nutrition.
Thankfully, you no longer have to travel to rural Latin America to get your hands on some pinole. Purely Pinole brought this whole-grain cereal to the United States, and health-conscious foodies and athletes alike are going nuts for it. Just add milk or almond milk, cook for 3 three minutes, and serve warm—preparing pinole is that simple. Each serving provides 7 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber—enough to sustain you through a tough workout or long day at the office.
With a toasted, nutty flavor and just a hint of sweetness, pinole makes a delightful addition to the breakfast table. The original variety is flavored with cinnamon and allspice—just the way the Tarahumara like it. If you want a little more sweetness and fruity flavor, try Purely Pinole’s blueberry-banana and tart cherry versions.
Whichever you choose, we’re sure of one thing—pinole gives Wheaties a run for their money.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho