When it comes to the healthiest diets around the world, America ranks among the lowest, and it reflects in our rising obesity rates. So what are the healthiest countries eating, and how can we mimic them? Take a closer look at the following five diets, which are some of the world’s healthiest, and see how you can make them your own.
(Greece, Italy, Spain)
Already popular in American cuisine, Mediterranean diets focus on local, seasonal produce. Central dishes and signature foods include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes and olive oil. Fish and chicken are the primary meats, while red meat, salt and sugar are kept to a minimum.
Benefits: Mediterranean diets are known to promote weight loss, improve heart health and prevent diabetes.
(Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland)
Similar to the Mediterranean diet, the New Nordic diet centers around fruits, veggies, whole grains (oats and rye), eggs, rapeseed oil and seafood. There is, however, less meat, as it is kept to a minimum along with alcohol, dairy and sweets. Central foods include local berries, root vegetables, fermented milk and cheese, reindeer, salmon, lamb, herring, mackerel and pork. To add flavor, herbs like mustard, parsley, dill, chives and horseradish are added.
Benefits: Reduces abdominal fat and type 2 diabetes risk. Socioeconomic benefits include a reduction in mead production and imported foods.
As a low-calorie diet, the origins of the traditional Okinawa diet started before World War II, when emphasis was on eating only enough food to make you feel 80 percent full. Meats, sugar, salt, full-fat dairy and refined grains are kept at a minimum, while sweet potatoes, rice, leafy greens, melons and soybean based foods are the main foods. Seafood, lean meat, tea and fruit are eaten modestly.
Benefits: Many of the islanders who follow this diet are centenarians who live long, disease-free lives with a slow aging process. This could possibly be due to long-term calorie restriction, researchers say.
As you might expect, white rice, noodles and fresh vegetables are a staple in traditional Asian fare. Eggs and shellfish are also typical, as are whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts and poultry. Red meats are kept to a minimum (a few times a month).
Benefits: Proper diet could be a central factor in the low incidence of obesity, heart disease and metabolic disease in Asian countries.
Ever wonder why the French have the lowest obesity rates and highest life expectancy in the world? The secret may be in the paradox of the rich foods they eat regularly. The French diet consists of full-fat dairy, bread and small, regular amounts of chocolate, red wine and moldy cheese.
Benefits: Yes, it sounds unhealthy, but the key to this diet is portion size. The French have small portions, they don’t snack, they eat very slowly, and they walk EVERYWHERE. Perhaps it’s the method of eating that has created such a healthy country, not necessarily the specific foods.