As the inventors of fast food, America seems to have won the battle but lost the war when it comes to eating habits. It turns out that cheap, easily accessible, quickly served food doesn’t equate to longevity, fitness or low heart disease and diabetes rates. Don’t roll your eyes yet -- those are the factors that we measured as we set out to determine the world’s healthiest cuisines, and some of the results may have you rethinking the meaning of nutrition.
Misconceptions about certain European and Asian diets exist because the dishes that made it to North America are often the most gluttonous versions of those regions’ foods, having been remade into a vision of excessiveness (think: cheese-stuffed pizza crust dripping with globs of greasy processed cheese and pepperoni). Yet France, Italy and China have some of the most wholesome cuisines even though elements like butter, oil and carbs feature prominently.
A unifying factor among the cuisines on the list of healthiest is the reliance on fresh, seasonal produce and a distinct lack of processed foods. Plus, all of the featured cultures, including Israel and the Caribbean, are known for their celebration of cooking and eating -- the savoring and the community of a shared meal -- so perhaps America’s mistake was deciding that food ever needed to be fast in the first place.
To determine the list, we pulled the numbers on life expectancy stats from the CIA World Factbook, which, as they say, are an indicator of “overall quality of life in a country.” For the 20 countries ranked highest for life expectancy (the U.S. is #49), we compiled information from the World Health Organization in three areas: obesity, heart disease and diabetes -- all factors which can be caused by the healthfulness of a person’s food intake. Read on to see which countries made the cut.