Have you ever wondered how French women maintain their slim figures? Why, despite large bowls of pasta and late dinners, Italians are one of the healthiest nations?
A group of nutritionists were asked to select the best foods and diet tips from around the world that can help us stay healthy, so if you are bored with the same sandwiches and looking for a change carry on reading!
Dr Marilyn Glenville (www.marilynglenville.com), a leading nutritionist in the UK, says
‘This is one of the healthiest diets in the world. The fish is supplying important Omega 3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. Both the cruciferous vegetables and fermented soya have been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer as they have a balancing effect on hormones.
The Japanese also eat lot of seaweed (sea vegetables) that contains important trace minerals like selenium and iodine for healthy thyroid function. Sushi, the most popular dish in Japan, provides energy but it’s also low in fat and high in omega acids that keeps blood healthy. In general, many Japanese vegetables are unprocessed which means greater levels of vitamins and minerals.’
Foods which feature predominantly in the Mediterranean diet include seafood, olive oil, vegetables, fruit and grains, all of which are loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals. This type of diet is also linked to a lowered risk of diabetes and heart disease. While Mediterranean meals often contain meat and cheese, they're eaten in moderation.
‘High amounts of olive oil lower the levels of total blood cholesterol and fight inflammation. Mediterranean diet also emphasises fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids and foods containing antioxidants that can reduce the risk of memory loss and decrease brain function, as we get older.’ says Sharon Morey, nutritionist at Quest Vitamins (www.questexcellence.com).
When it comes to food, Icelanders keep things simple by using staples such as lean lamb and fresh seafood. They grow most of their food locally while using pesticides sparingly.
Dairy products are often higher quality than ours as first Nordic settlers to Iceland had a good knowledge of food preserving.
‘High-quality yogurts with beneficial bacteria are a must in Icelander’s daily diet. Fresh fish is high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which help keep our hearts and brain healthy. They can help reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s as well as heart disease and strokes.’ says Dr Marilyn Glenville.
Just like Icelanders, Swedes eat high quality fermented dairy products that are crucial when in comes to digestion and immunity (70% of our immune system is in our gut). The Scandinavian diet doesn't include a lot of vegetables, however, there are plenty of healthy elements to be found in their cuisine.
‘Berries, which are very high in antioxidants are favourite fruit in Sweden – usually picked up locally and used in deserts are great source of vitamins. Swedes eat plenty of high quality complex unrefined carbohydrates in the form of ryebread, which is served alongside main meal. Rye is full of fibre and keep us fuller for longer.’ adds Dr Glenville.
Ethiopian cuisine is low in fat and high in nutrients with grains being the main component. Teff - a high fibre whole grain which also contains iron, protein and calcium, is a prominent ingredient in the majority of their dishes.
‘Grains are crucial in promoting digestive health and reducing the risk of bowel cancer.' says Dr Glenville.
Azifa, famous Ethiopian salad, is made with green lentils and eaten with brown rice or pita bread.
'Lentils, which are high in fibre and protein but low in fat, are also classed as phytoestrogens with a balancing effect on hormones, both for men and women.’ adds Glenville.
Elouise Bauskis, a nutritionist at www.nutricentre.com says:
‘Using chopsticks can help you to slow down while eating, which may ultimately decrease the amount of food eaten. Digestion starts in the mouth and as we chew we are releasing salivary enzymes like amylase that begin the breakdown of food, specifically carbohydrates.
The more you chew your food, the smaller the particles will be as they pass into the stomach and the easier they are to digest, meaning you will be getting more nutrients from your food from easier absorption. You will find green tea in every Chinese house, which is their favourite hot drink. It eliminates toxins, aids digestion and curbs cravings. It can also fight free radicals, which cause cancer and heart disease.’
Why do French stay slim and healthy even though their diet is high in fat and carbs? Of course baguettes and cheese feature strongly in the French diet, but they also tend to drink red wine with their dinner. Red wine contains resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant.
‘It can not only protect you from damaging free radicals but it also boosts cell replication. By promoting a healthy, inflammatory response in our body it delays premature ageing process. A recent study shows, that there has never been a drug in the history of pharmaceuticals that speeds up cells regeneration like resveratrol. Another study suggests, that it can turn additional weight into calorie burning ‘brown’ fat.’ explains Michela Vagnini, nutritionist at Naturesplus.co.uk.
Indian cuisine includes spices, which not only add flavour and appealing colour, they're full of fantastic health benefits.
‘Turmeric has significant anti-inflammatory effects and helps relieve the symptoms of IBS. Ginger is very effective in easing discomfort in the stomach. It also promotes the elimination of excessive gas from the digestive system and soothes your gut.’ explains Adrienne Benjamin, nutritionist at www.provenprobiotics.co.uk.
To refresh themselves, Indians drink Lassi – a traditional, yogurt-based drink.
‘Made of fermented milk and often flavoured with mint or mango, this healthy beverage is rich in ‘friendly bacteria’ and aids digestion.’ adds Adrienne.