What We Can Learn About Diets from around the World
Whether you call the United States a “melting pot” or a “salad bowl” of cultures and heritages, it is undeniable that so much in this country can be attributed to international influences. The American diet is no different, despite having some uniquely American cuisine. The U.S. is known for big portions, mountains of fried foods and over-the-top and often unhealthy “Instagram-worthy” foods, which does not help the rising rates of obesity in the country.
Although other countries’ cuisines have their share of unhealthy dishes, here are a few healthy diet lessons we can learn from our friends overseas.
You have probably already heard people raving about the Mediterranean diet and for good reason. Greek cuisine features heart-healthy ingredients that lower the risks of heart disease as well as having many other health benefits. Meals in Greece also tend to be much lighter than the giant portions we are used to in U.S. restaurants. Incorporating more leafy greens, olive oil, seafood, garlic, and high-fiber beans and lentils can cut the risks of some diseases including diabetes that are common in the United States.
Based on the amount of antioxidants in some Thai dishes, you would think Thai food is practically medicinal! Classic ingredients in Thai cuisine such as ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass are chalk full of antioxidants and nutrients that are important for cellular health as well as having their own health benefits. Thai dishes often include lean meats and seafood, fresh produce and herbs and spices often used for medicinal purposes – all the makings for a healthy diet!
Vietnamese cuisine specializes in flavoring with herbs and cooking without much oil, so food is flavorful and fresh without detriments of frying. Similarly to Thai cuisine, Vietnamese dishes use herbs that have medicinal effects to combat inflammation and aid digestion while giving you a healthy dose of antioxidants. Dishes also include fresh produce, seafood rich in omega-3s and broth-based meals that are high in vitamins.
When you look past the greasy hibachi steakhouses and over-the-top specialty sushi rolls, Japanese food can be a perfect fit in a healthy diet. Choosing the fresher, simpler sushi rolls with lean fish and vegetables are a delicious, healthy substitute for the rolls covered in sauces and tempura batter. Japanese diets, along with many other diets around the world, tend to have significantly smaller portions than traditional American dishes. A diet rich in rice (brown rice preferably!), beans, vegetables, seaweed, green tea and soy as well as little meat is a major factor in the high life expectancy of Japanese populations.
Spanish cuisine is known for its tapas, or small plates. Small plates of fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and meats give variety in a meal without overeating. The variety can satisfy multiple cravings without eating too much of a good thing. Another healthy option is gazpacho, a refreshing chilled soup made from raw vegetables and fruits that is popular in southern Spain. Fresh ingredients such as seafood, vegetables and olive oil are staples in Spanish cuisine, providing you with plenty of lean protein and nutrients.
What are your favorite healthy dishes or tips from around the world? Let us know in the comments!
Photo credit: Bit Boy