3 international diets that could make you healthier and live longer
The next time you’re scrolling through your favourite restaurant review app for a new eatery to try, consider which cuisine might benefit your body most rather than just which menu items might rouse your taste buds.
You can take all sorts of culinary adventures without leaving your neighbourhood or even by strolling through the aisles of your grocery stores, and taking a chance on an international diet could prove beneficial in preventing heart disease or maintaining a healthy weight.
Global News took a look at three international diets that might help you live a healthier, longer life.
Lumping the cuisines of an entire region’s worth of countries — including Italy, Spain, Morocco and Greece — under one category may seem an injustice, but there are consistencies in the food of the Mediterranean.
And of all the styles of eating that exist in our world, it’s the one that has the scientifically-proven benefits to your health.
In 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine recommended a Mediterranean diet as a means to prevent cardiovascular disease in people aged 55 to 80 years old.
“The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and cereals; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets; and wine in moderation, consumed with meals,” reads a report titled Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet.
The five-year study found that adopting a Mediterranean diet, supplemented with nuts or olive oil, lowered the risk of heart attack and stroke or dying from heart disease.
Research has also suggested the Mediterranean diet could also reduce the risk of dementia.
Japan has the secret to a long life that is anything but secret. The island nation has the highest number of centenarians – people living past 100 – and the longest life expectancy for women, at 87 years, according to the World Health Organization.
Okinawa and the Ryukyu islands, Japan’s southernmost islands, have the greatest ratio of people aged 100 and over in the world.
In 2001, a book called The Okinawa Program claimed the diet and lifestyle of the Okinawan people contributed to that, based on the 25-year Okinawa Centenarian Study.
The researchers described the centenarians as “youthful-looking, energetic, and had remarkably low rates of heart disease and cancer — even stomach cancer, which claimed many mainland Japanese.”
Calgary native Dr. Craig Willcox, a gerontologist who was part of the Okinawa Centenarian Study team and co-wrote the book The Okinawa Program, pointed to diet as a factor in the islanders’ long life span.
“They eat three servings of fish a week, on average … plenty of whole grains, vegetables and soy products too, more tofu and more konbu seaweed than anyone else in the world, as well as squid and octopus, which are rich in taurine – that could lower cholesterol and blood pressure,” he told the Guardian.
He explained to the Guardian the notion of eating more food with a lower caloric intake. He used the Confucian idea, popular in Okinawa, that you should eat until you are 80 per cent full (“hara hachi bu” in Japanese).
The Okinawa Diet website explains it like this: “Eat more food with a lower caloric density and less food with a higher caloric density.”
New Nordic Diet
The concept of “eating like a Viking” rose to popularity late last year, with the argument that the Nordic diet is “every bit as healthy as its Mediterranean counterpart.”
Studied at the University of Copenhagen in 2004 and approved by the Nordic Council of Minister the next year, the diet was in the spotlight in late 2014 when Vogue writer Kate Christensen chronicled her experience with following the diet — losing four pounds in two weeks and also noticing how it improved her physical well-being and her health consciousness.
The Nordic diet is along the same lines as the Mediterranean diet, minus the processed carbohydrates — in the form of pasta, polenta and white bread — while incorporating whole grains like oats, rye and barley. It also relies more on rapeseed (or canola) oil over the Mediterranean staple olive oil.
The Nordic diet veers away from processed and refined food and food additives, focusing more on home-cooked meals made with more seasonal ingredients, root vegetables and leafy greens in particular, and food from “wild landscapes.”
Like the Mediterranean diet, fish and seafood are key components. When it comes to meats, less is more, but go for higher quality meats.
“The New Nordic Diet is based on Nordic ingredients, at the same time taking account of the health and well-being of the individual and environmental sustainability. Moreover, it is important that the food tastes really delicious and appeals to children,” reads an explanation on the University of Copenhagen’s Research Center OPUS website.
According to the Telegraph, the University of Copenhagen monitored 181 obsese men and women for six months last year and found the subjects lost more weight than those on a “conventional diet” — 4.7 kilograms on the Nordic Diet, 1.5 kilograms on the standard diet — and also lowered blood pressure.
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