World's Healthiest Cuisines Slideshow
October 27, 2011
Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates in the developed world, combined with a constant focus on longevity. Their healthy diets reflect that dedication to personal health, with a vegetarian, rice, and soy-heavy cuisine. Fresh seafood and dairy are eaten, too, in moderate amounts. It's also interesting to note that Tokyo alone has more Michelin stars than Paris, New York, London, and Hong Kong combined.
The wildly successful French Women Don't Get Fat was right — a daily French diet does not consist of hollandaise sauce and foie gras. Instead, staples of French food include fresh vegetables, like haricots verts, and a variety of well-prepared proteins. Think bouillabaisse and light omelettes with fresh salads.
Italy has one of the world's lowest rates of diabetes, according to the WHO, meaning there's much more to Italian cuisine than pizza, pasta, and gelato. Portions of pasta tend to be small, and are usually accompanied by a lean protein and a helping of vegetables. Olive oil, too, helps keep their cuisine among the healthiest, as it's heart healthy and omega-3 rich.
Swedish cuisine, and Scandinavian cuisine in general, is seafood-heavy and puts to use a range of healthful cooking techniques like smoking, poaching, drying, and pickling. Meals are often laden with vegetables and fruit, and even the heartiest dishes tend to skip the heavy sauces or fried components. White breads and crackers are often replaced with crisp rye breads, which are high in fiber.
The Mediterranean diet is one that weight-watchers the world over pay attention to for its incredible health and weight-loss benefits. Leafy greens, omega-3-rich olive oil, fresh seafood, whole grains, and fresh fruits make up most traditional Greek dishes, with a moderate amount of dairy thrown in. Greeks also eat their food in smaller portions, called mezze.
Stop picturing the oil-laden egg rolls and orange chicken of Chinese delivery stateside. The cuisines of China are packed with ingredients like whole grains, vegetables, and soy, and use healthy cooking techniques like steaming and stir-frying. No wonder the country has low heart disease and diabetes rates.
Island cuisine, particularly in Bermuda, Anguilla, and the Cayman Islands, is particularly healthy for its focus on fresh fish and seafood, starchy root vegetables, rice, and hot peppers, which are linked to lowering blood pressure and increasing metabolism. An abundance of fresh, tropical fruits permeates many aspects of the Caribbean diet, as well.
Swiss cuisine tends to conjure images of thick breads, gooey fondues, and heavy meats. But the country boasts low obesity, heart disease, and diabetes rates. These result from a strong focus on local and seasonal foods, harvested from small farms, and a simpler cuisine. Meats and cheeses are eaten in moderation, while breakfasts tend to consist of muesli, which is made up of dried fruits, whole oats, and nuts.
The Spanish may be known for their jamón ibérico and rich cheeses, but their cuisine (as it is in Spain and not interpreted elsewhere) is actually filled with vegetables, fresh fish, whole grains, and legumes. Many traditional tapas dishes are vegetarian (like garlicky mushrooms and roasted veggies), or based on freshly grilled fish and seafood.
Another type of Mediterranean cuisine, the Israeli diet has many similarities to that of the Greeks. Olive oil; fresh vegetables like eggplants, tomatoes, and zucchini; and the Jewish "seven species" (grapes, olives, pomegranates, etc.) are all great sources of nutrients and antioxidants. The country has low heart disease rates and high life expectancy as a result.