Mexico City, Mexico

The Mexico study is led by Dr. Martin Lajous and includes researchers from the Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica in Mexico City.

Mexico at a Glance

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Capital: Mexico City

Area: 1,964,375 sq km
Population: 120,286,655
Median age: total 27.3 years
Urban population: 78% of total population
Life expectancy: male 72.67 yr ; female: 78.32 yr
Per Capita GDP: $ 15,600

Language: Spanish (official) and indigenous languages

Location:  Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the United States and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the United States

Agriculture:  Corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, tomatoes; beef, poultry, dairy products; wood products

Diet and culture:

When the Europeans arrived in Mexico in 1517, the Mexican native’s diet consisted mainly of corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and herbs. Chocolate, native to Mexico, was considered a drink fit for royalty. The Indians occasionally hunted, adding wild turkey, rabbit, deer, and quail to their vegetarian diet.

When the Spanish explorers landed in Mexico, they introduced livestock, including cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and chickens. On later journeys to this “New World,” the Spanish brought plants from Asia, such as sugarcane and wheat.

Corn is the basis of the Mexican diet, as it has been for thousands of years. It can be found in almost every meal, usually in the form of the tortilla (flatbread). Corn can also be boiled to produce pozole, a hearty corn stew. Popular fruits and vegetables are tomatoes, tomatillos (green tomatoes), squash, sweet potato, avocado, mango, pineapple, papaya, and nopales (from the prickly pear cactus). Though beef is consumed, chicken and pork are more common. The variety of chilies includes the widely known jalapeño, as well as the poblano, serrano, and chipotle. Chilies give Mexican cooking a distinctive flavor, which is often enhanced with herbs, such as cilantro and thyme, and spices, including cumin, cinnamon, and cloves. Cheese and eggs round out the diet. Seafood is most common in coastal dishes.

Though Mexican cuisine is a blend of indigenous (Indian) and Spanish influences, most Mexicans continue to eat more native foods, such as corn, beans, and peppers. Bread and pastries are sold, but the tortilla, homemade or bought daily at the local tortillería (tortilla stand), is the basis of the typical meal. Flour tortillas are also eaten, especially in northern Mexico, but the corn variety is most popular.

American soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola, have become popular in Mexico in recent decades, but fruit-flavored soda drinks are also widely consumed, as are fresh fruit juices, available from street vendors. Sangría, an import from Spain, and beer are also popular beverages. Coffee is normally served spiced and sweet (café de olla).