Healthy world diets vs. The Standard American Diet

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-fast-food-pattern-image38190374A previous post reported on the latest available findings on the health status of various countries and regions. We noted how some areas have much lower rates than the U.S. of obesity and diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer.

Though the diets are different, common factors stood out—those more healthy countries served much smaller portions at mealtime, snacked less, and walked much more than the average  American.

Here are some of the best regional diets studied by health and nutritional experts, and how they differ from The Standard American Diet:

The Mediterranean Diet (Greece, Italy, Spain), is probably the one we are most familiar with, and we are happy to say many Americans (though not enough) have adopted their food habits.

Those countries emphasize seasonality, local produce such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil, fish, poultry and red wine.

Red meat, salt, sugar and processed and prepared fast foods are bit players.

The Nordic Diet… is completely different. Countries such as Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Norway eat a lot of meat—beef, pork, lamb, reindeer—and dairy. Also whole grains such as oats and rye. Their vegetables of choice and tradition are Brussels sprouts, broccoli, turnips, parsnips and beets, with favored herbs such as dill, parsley, mustard, horseradish and chives.

They distrust genetically modified food and 75 percent of their food is organic. Those countries can be very cold. People are generally lean and active and do not store abdominal fat.

The Traditional Asian Diet is not really one kind of diet, but international nutritionists have come up with a general food pyramid, with a priority of noodles, rice, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, greens, seaweed, legumes, seeds, nuts and small amounts of meat and fish playing a big role for flavoring and protein, but extended for many meals.

Unfortunately, because of modern China’s large role on the world’s economic stage, many of the wealthier people are becoming ‘Western,’ lapping up U.S. fast food and sedentary lifestyles.

According to Asian news, this affluence is causing “an emerging public health dilemma.”

The Okinawa Diet is an interesting one. This is the ‘poor part’ of modern Japan. They have an availibility of fruits and vegetables (sweet potatoes, rice, leafy greens), but very little meat. Confucian ideals of eating only enough to get 80 percent full play a big part in their culture, as does sharing with their neighbors.

Okinawa has one of the world’s largest populations of super-centenarians, free of disease and disability. Many researchers believe that a lifelong restriction of calories plays a large part in longevity.

The French ‘Paradox’ Diet has scientists scratching their heads. The French consume a great deal of rich food—full fat cheese, butter, bread, meat, chocolate, often late at night. Yet they have the West’s lowest rates of obesity and highest life expectancy!

But the French have a few diet secrets. They walk a lot. They treasure their traditional farmers. They eat smaller portions. They enjoy a famous food culture of slow cooking of REAL foods from scratch, and slow eating to savor, enjoy and digest.

So, there you have it. So much to learn and adopt from all those diets for better health, depending on your individual circumstances and lifestyle.

Sources: New York Daily News, Business Insider

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