The Healthiest Diets In The World & What They Have In Common

How should we eat for better health? Follow examples from the healthiest diets in the world…

It’s no secret that the average American diet is far from healthy. But how does it differ from the healthiest diets in the world – and what do those diets have in common that ours is lacking?

This is the interesting subject of the book, The 5 Factor World Diet, by Harley Pasternak.

For this book, Pasternak traveled to the regions of the world where the healthiest people live and observed their eating habits and other daily activities.

He noticed a number of interesting differences from the way that we eat here in America. For example, in all of these countries, people ate far fewer sugary and salty processed foods and artificial additives. Many also prioritized regional and seasonal foods and treated mealtimes as more of an event.

Others, such as the Chinese, focused on having a wide array of colorful foods, and each region and country had its own special foods that were consumed frequently – such a seaweed or special teas.

While we don’t believe there is one diet that everyone should follow, there are certainly valuable things we can learn from studying the healthiest diets in the world.

Here are 5 of the world’s healthiest diets, and what makes them special:

The Mediterranean Diet

What it is: A traditional Mediterranean diet, eaten by people in Greece, Italy and Spain, emphasizes seasonality, local produce and traditional preparations. Meals are often community or family events.

Signature foods: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and olive oil are the stars of the show. Fish, poultry and red wine make moderate appearances, while red meat, salt and sugar are bit players.

What the research says: …The benefits of a Mediterranean diet have been studied since the 70s, and researchers have found that living that olive oil life can help people lose weight, lower their cardiovascular disease risk and reverse diabetes

New Nordic Diet

What it is: …Called the New Nordic diet, it’s similar to the Mediterranean diet in that there is a big emphasis on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, eggs, oil and seafood, while foods like meat, dairy, dessert and alcohol are eaten sparingly…

Signature foods: Whole grain cereals like oats and rye; local fruits and berries like rose hip, lingonberries and bilberries; cruciferous and root vegetables like brussels sprouts, broccoli, turnips, parsnips and beets; rapeseed oil, vegetable oil-based margarine; and low-fat dairy like milk, fermented milk and cheese. Meats include beef, pork, lamb and reindeer, while seafood include herring, mackerel and salmon…

What the research says: A recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a healthy Nordic diet seemed to have an impact on genes in abdominal fat, turning off genes related to inflammation….

Traditional Okinawa Diet

What it is: This low-calorie yet nutrition-dense diet is big on fruits and vegetables but sparse when it comes to meat, refined grains, sugar, salt and full-fat dairy…

Signature foods: Sweet potatoes, rice, green leafy vegetables, green and yellow vegetables like bitter melon, soybean-based foods like tofu and soy sauce. Okinawa residents only ate modest amounts of seafood, lean meat, fruit and tea.

What the research says: Modern-day Okinawans are catching up economically with their mainland cousins, which means rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease are rising as well. But the people who grew up eating traditionally are still alive and clinging to their culinary traditions. In fact, the island is home to one of the largest populations of centenarians in the world. These super-seniors are living active lives largely free of disease and disability, and are said to age slowly. Some researchers believe that the practice of long-term calorie restriction may play a large role in their longevity.

Traditional Asian Diet

Description: There isn’t really one traditional Asian diet, but a group of international nutritionists collaborated together in the 90s to come up with an Asian Food Pyramid. It prioritizes rice, noodles and whole grains, as well as fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds and nuts as the most-eaten food groups. Fish and shellfish are optional daily choices, while eggs and poultry should be eaten weekly. Note that recommended servings of red meat are smaller and less frequent (monthly) than even sweets (weekly)!

Signature foods: There are many different countries whose traditional ways of eating follow this model, but they all seem to have white rice as a staple.

What the research says: Asian countries have less incidences of obesity, cardiovascular disease and metabolic diseases like diabetes than Western countries, although that seems to be slowly changing thanks to rising economies and urbanization…

‘French Paradox’ Diet

Description: …The French have some of the lowest obesity rates in the developed world and highest life expectancies, despite the rich food they eat…

Signature foods: Full fat cheese and yogurt, butter, bread, and small but regular amounts of cheese and chocolate are some of the hallmarks of this rich diet.

What the research says: Some researchers think that the so-called “French Paradox” has more to do with lifestyle than anything French people eat. For instance, their portions are small, they don’t snack, they walk everywhere and they eat very, very slowly…


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