Healthiest diets from around the world
Find out what makes the Mediterranean, Nordic, Mexican and Okinawan diets so healthy, and get wholesome recipes to try. Enjoy pork tacos, chicken cacciatore, tadka dhal and more.
Have you ever found yourself wondering what is the healthiest diet in the world? You might already know the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, for example, but do you know what makes Nordic, Middle Eastern or Mexican food so good for you?
We break down below some of the healthiest cuisines from across the globe and highlight the benefits of some commonly used ingredients. Have a read, then check out our healthy colourful recipes, healthy vegetarian recipes and healthy dinner ideas.
It's important to note that while the traditional diets of these countries are healthy, modern eating habits may be very different. Whether it's due to poverty, environmental factors or the availability of processed foods, many countries have experienced big changes to their food culture – this has a huge impact on overall health.
What are the healthiest diets from around the world?
The Mediterranean diet often includes seasonal vegetables, fresh fruit, lean protein such as chicken, beans and plenty of good fats. Olive oil, nuts and oily fish all contain heart-healthy fats which also benefit brain function. As the diet contains minimal processed sugars, it's also thought to help balance blood sugar levels, avoiding spikes and crashes in your energy.
Think Greek yogurt topped with nuts and fruit, French salads with green beans, eggs and anchovies, or Italian pasta dishes made with tomatoes.
Check out our best Mediterranean recipes, including chicken, red pepper & olive cacciatore.
This diet is followed by people in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Greenland. Although the food eaten in these countries can be very different, what stays the same is a focus on food which is light, delicious and nutrient-dense.
Many ingredients, including fish, fruits and vegetables, are preserved, pickled and fermented to last all year round. This gives them probiotic properties which may support a healthy gut. Complex carbs, such as rye bread, release energy slowly and help to keep you fuller for longer. It's also a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, thanks to the high quantities of oily fish. Not to mention the inclusion of foraged foods, such as mushrooms and seaweed, which are packed with nutrients and minerals, thanks to the wild habitats in which they grow.
Enjoy our Scandi-style salmon with pickled potato salad.
Okinawa is an island located off the coast of Japan. It's a well-known blue zone, one of only five places in the world where people live longer than anywhere else.
It's believed the long and healthy lifespans of people in Okinawa is thanks to the traditional low-calorie, high-carb diet of vegetables, grains, seafood and soy products. While they do still eat a small amount of rice and noodles, Okinawans get most of the carbs in from sweet potatoes. These are rich in fibre, antioxidants and beta-carotenes which support the immune system.
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The island is fairly isolated, so many processed foods, including meat, carbohydrates and sugars are not included in the Okinawan diet. This has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the residents' health. And, of course, the inclusion of daily activity, such as walking.
Explore Japanese recipes like our seared tuna tataki.
India is a vast country where the cuisine changes every few miles, so to talk about Indian food as a whole is impossible. The coconut fish curries of the south, for example, vary greatly from the tangy, spicy vegetarian dishes of the north.
However, colourful, vibrant spices are used everywhere and these have numerous benefits to your health. Turmeric, one of the most popular spices in India, may help to combat inflammation in the body, boost memory, lift mood and help us fight off infection. Cinnamon, a spice commonly used in chai tea, could help balance blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels. And ginger which forms the base of many curries may calm the digestive system and support a healthy heart.
As a large proportion of the country practices Hinduism, there's an emphasis on vegetarianism. That means plant-based proteins, like eggs and lentils, are commonly used in curries and dals.
In areas where coconut trees grow, the milk and flesh is added to sweet and savoury dishes, giving a boost of healthy fats.
Browse our Indian recipes and try classic tarka dhal.
Middle Eastern diet
Middle Eastern cuisine encompasses food from Lebanon, Israel, Turkey and Egypt. Again, it's a diet that varies drastically from country to country, but there are similarities.
The use of good-quality olive oil in everything from salads to stews, bread and dips means dishes are bursting with good fats which may support a healthy heart and brain. The same can be said for legumes like chickpeas and lentils which bulk out dishes, upping the fibre and providing slow-release energy.
Dips are eaten frequently and made with seasonal vegetables, including peppers and aubergines, as well as nuts and olive oil. Tahini, a key ingredient in hummus and salad dressings, is made from sesame seeds and packs a plant-based protein punch.
Many salads include wholegrains, like freekeh or couscous, as well as tomatoes and pomegranate. Both supply protective antioxidants and vitamin C.
When it comes to sweets, plump dates are the treat of choice – these provide plenty of fibre.
Try our Middle Eastern meze recipes, including smoked aubergine & pepper salad with pomegranate molasses.
Traditional Mexican cuisine is a riot of bold colours and flavours. Zingy lime, fiery chilli and fresh coriander are used frequently. Although there are many rich, meaty dishes, such as pork tacos, there are also plenty of lighter fish options, like aguachile, where raw shrimp is marinated in lime and chilli.
Avocado is a staple, providing a good hit of healthy fats and helping to lower cholesterol. Maize is the most common carbohydrate as it's used to make tacos, tamales and a number of other Mexican dishes.
There are plenty of popular Mexican soups and stews, made with fish, chicken or red meat, which are bulked out with beans. These help to provide plant-based protein, as well as increasing fibre content and feelings of fullness.
Get stuck into our best Mexican recipes, including slow-cooked pulled pork carnitas.
More specifically, the African Heritage diet, which focuses on the healthy food traditions of people with African roots. It's a diet which spans multiple countries and typically includes lots of starchy vegetables, such as cassava, yam, plantains and sweet potato. While these may be high in carbohydrates, they're considerably healthier than refined carbs, like white rice.
There's an abundance of leafy greens, such as mustard greens, and fresh fruit, such as papaya, pineapple and mango. All of which supply vitamin C and fibre. Legumes, such as pinto beans or pigeon peas, are simmered in spicy coconut stews – these are loaded with nutrients and contribute to a healthy heart.
There are a number of naturally gluten-free wholegrains, such as amaranth, maize, millet, sorghum and teff. These pack in protein, fibre, antioxidants and other minerals, including magnesium and zinc. They help to maintain a healthy weight as they slowly release energy in the body without spiking blood sugar levels.
Start your African food adventure with our West African recipes, including chicken yassa.
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