The Bloomberg Global Health Index is an annual report that evaluates the healthiest countries in the world. The report assesses 163 countries based on different criteria including mortality by communicable disease (spread from person to person through infection) and non-communicable diseases (chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes); life expectancy; infant mortality rate; percentage of population with elevated blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels; prevalence of overweight; tobacco use and alcohol consumption; physical activity; mental health; and environmental pollution.
The United States is 34th in the 2017 ranking, and although it is one of the wealthiest nations per capita, it is lower on the list than smaller, poorer countries like Cuba, Lebanon, and Costa Rica. American citizens have access to some of the most advanced medicine and health care facilities, clean water, excellent sanitation facilities, stringent environmental regulations, and tight food safety standards. What then, could be the reason for the United States’ low ranking?
One explanation is the traditional “Western” diet, which is centered on cheap meat and dairy, fast food, and heavily processed snacks. Canada is the only country from the Western Hemisphere to crack the list’s top 25. The majority of the world’s healthiest countries are located in Europe, Southeast Asia, or around the Mediterranean Sea, and although these countries have distinct cuisines, they all share many commonalities. Generally, their diets consist of seafood, vegetables, olive oil, cured meats, whole-grain breads, local cheeses, and other minimally processed ingredients. These countries view dining as ceremonial, even ritualistic, and adhere to a mantra of “living to eat” mantra, rather than just eating to live. Meals are light and frequent instead of heavy and spread out, and there’s a sense of reverence and respect for craftsmanship in both the ingredients and the food preparation.
This is what people eat in the world’s healthiest countries.