Do you eat to live, or live to eat? Either way, one thing is clear — food is life. Whether you only eat just enough to keep yourself alive and healthy, or you indulge and enjoy every kind of food there is, everyone needs food for survival.
Every country in the world has distinct cuisines that are unique to the region. These differences occur due to the natural flora and fauna that thrive in each country, and the cultures of each nation largely influence their cuisines too. When people choose to travel across the globe, many of them take it as an opportunity to taste the different flavours of the world. There are even organized tours that are specifically aimed at educating and exposing people to many different cuisines worldwide.
With the increasing focus on having a balanced diet and keeping trim and fit these days, it raises an interesting question — which countries in the world have the healthiest cuisines, and which are the unhealthy ones?
The Lancet Global Health journal released the results of a survey that looked at the diets of about 4.5 billion people from 187 different countries, and the general consensus was that the worldwide consumption of healthy foods had increased within the last two decades. However, there was also a large increase in the consumption of unhealthy processed foods, like canned meats and artificially sweetened beverages.
The results show a surprising trend — people from lower-income countries and Mediterranean nations were shown to have overall healthier diets than people in high-income countries. Moreover, the wealthiest regions in high-income countries were shown to have unhealthiest diets among all. This might be due to the easy accessibility these countries have to processed and fast food, which is convenient but can be very unhealthy.
Best Of The Best
These countries have some of the healthiest foods in the world. The various dishes that they offer tend to be more whole foods, fresh ingredients, and provide many nutrients and vitamins that are essential to good health.
Chad, Mali, Sierra Leone (West Africa)
African countries are among the healthiest when it comes to cuisine and diet, especially in West Africa. Much of the food is fresh and free of any preservatives. Processed food is almost unheard of in this region, so many of the dishes they have do not contain any saturated fats or excess sodium. Whole grains like millet and sorghum are staples here — these provide plenty of fibre to the body, which promotes gut and digestive health. Fibre is also prevalent in the many fresh vegetables and fruits included in almost every dish, like okra, guava, and mangoes. All livestock are grown naturally, so the meat is almost organically grown. A national dish of the region is boule, which is a porridge made using grains like maize and sorghum.
Mediterranean (Greece, Israel)
The Mediterranean diet is well-known for being one of the world’s healthiest diets, so it’s only natural the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea would have some of the world’s healthiest cuisines. Most of these include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals, nuts, fish and dairy products, and lots of heart-healthy olive oil. Greeks love their salads and yoghurts, both of which are key to promoting good digestive health. In Israel, legumes and eggplants are plentiful, and chickpeas are used to make falafel — spiced vegetarian balls that are fried in olive oil and eaten in a pita.
Japanese people are known to have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and some studies have shown it could be due to their diet of fresh seafood, as well as an abundance of vegetables and fruits. In Okinawa, it’s not uncommon for people to live up to 100 years at all. A staple diet of yams, seaweed, mushrooms, and green tea provides plenty of healthy nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, and plenty of natural antioxidants. All the tuna sashimi and more that many enjoy also give healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
A Grain Of Salt
This list of countries may show what the healthiest cuisines in the world are, but it is important to note that within each country’s unique cuisine, there are always both healthy and unhealthy options available. For example, the USA may be well-known for cheeseburgers and fast food, but immigrants from Europe brought over healthy dishes like the Greek salad, which has its own American version. Similarly, Japan may be known for fresh seafood, but they also have unhealthy dishes like the tonkatsu, a deep-fried pork cutlet with lots of sodium and oil.
The point is to not write off any single country just for having the best or worst foods for your health. Give them a chance, be open-minded, and try everything. Besides, it’s still acceptable to eat unhealthy food, but always remember that moderation is key.