Many associate popular American cuisine with the likes of hot dogs, french fries and cheeseburgers—not exactly the healthiest of options if you ask us. As described by U.S. News, there’s now research backing this perception: “America’s waistline continues to expand, according to a study published today in The Lancet. The obesity epidemic remains the biggest public health issue facing the country, and despite awareness of the need to get in shape, more than a third of [America] is now obese.”
We don’t mean to single out America. Many other countries are seeing an expansion in waistlines too. The runners up include: China, India, Russia, Brazil and Mexico. We admit, this is a pretty eye-opening statistic—especially with countries such as Japan and Iceland leading such healthy lifestyles. But they aren’t the only ones. Today, we’re taking a page from some of the healthiest eating habits around the world, from Japan to Sweden and in between.
Five countries with some of the healthiest eating habits around the world
Spotlight on Japan
When we think of Japanese cuisine we think of careful preparation and inventive plates. It’s clear that this country is very particular about presentation, not for the purpose of aesthetics, but for an emphasis on health. The country’s cuisine is characterized by colorful, fresh vegetables and smaller portions. The use of chopsticks can also contribute to eating more slowly. According to Jody Braverman, a writer for Livestrong: “Controlling your caloric intake is the foundation of successful weight loss. When you eat more slowly, you give your brain enough time to register that your stomach is full, which can help you eat less.”
What we’re currently loving from Japan: nori. The seaweed that wraps sushi is an unsung superfood rich in protein and dietary fiber. And it may even help to lower your risk of chronic illnesses or cancer.
Spotlight on Greece
The Greeks adopted the Mediterranean diet long before it became popular in the states. This lifestyle primarily uses plant-based foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon. While locals like to indulge in breads, meat and dairy, the Mediterranean diet encourages everyone to keep these items in moderation.
What we’re currently loving from Greece: olive oil. Oil tends to get a bad rap, but olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. It can also help to lower the risk of chronic diseases, such as stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Spotlight on the U.S.: look to New England for inspiration
While this may sound contradictory from what you read earlier, we want to prove that it’s not all about burgers and fries here in the states. In fact, parts of the U.S. can be among some of the best places to find fresh, local produce. Local cuisine is especially prominent in New England, which boasts organic produce and restaurants focused on the farm-to-table method, both for sustainability and longevity.
What we’re loving from New England: fresh fruits and vegetables, of course, because they’re packed with phytochemicals. “Phytochemicals are powerful food factors that elicit profound effects on human health maintenance and disease prevention,” writes Dr. Sue Hamilton in a contribution to Farm Flavor. “Usually related to plant pigments, they are the reason we promote eating your colors. Yellow, orange, red, green and purple fruits and vegetables generally contain the most phytochemicals, with more than 900 found in plant foods.”
Spotlight on France
We love a summer night filled with red wine, baguettes and brie—and so do the French. Despite this love, “French women have the lowest average body mass index in Europe,” writes Ayren Jackson-Cannady of Fitness Magazine. While they may indulge, they certainly keep it in moderation. That said, don’t neglect your vices completely. When you indulge in moderation you’re less likely to binge and derail your health and fitness goals.
What we’re loving from France: a glass of red wine. Red wine contains polyphenol, a micronutrient that plays a role in chronic-disease prevention.
The Swedish love a good smörgasbord. While you may associate that word with “buffet” and think of it in a negative connotation, it’s not all bad. Instead, think about it as putting variety on your plate. After all, a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein will only help us to stay satisfied and fuller for much longer.
What we’re loving from Sweden: Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that keep us in good health and rich in vitamins A and C, which are known to keep the oil levels in your skin at bay and nix skin concerns such as acne.
If you’re interested in learning more about healthy eating, download our complimentary e-book: “The Ultimate Guide to Eating Clean.”