The Healthiest Cuisines in the World

An Indian, Greek, and Peruvian walk into a bar… and order an amazingly healthy meal ūüėČ

Ryan and Alex Duo Life caught the travel bug years ago. We have been fortunate to experience many of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Together we have traveled to over thirty countries and Alex has traveled to over fifty. We enjoy the experiences that come with travel – especially when it comes to food.

We love discovering new healthiest cuisines and learning about the healthiest cultures. We’ve compiled a list of the food and eating habits of five countries that represent the best of the best. Read on to learn about the diets of the healthiest cuisines in the world.

the healthiest cuisines in the world

1. China and its Rice

How could we not start here? Ryan and I lived in Shanghai for three years when we worked as corporate engineers, and it is the country we still like to think as our second home. The Chinese have deep-rooted philosophies in eating styles tied directly into natural medicine, but that could be a whole email in and of itself (yin and yang,¬†“hot” and “cold” foods¬†anyone!?).

Instead, there is one very practical, and surprising, mealtime rule that we learned: rice is only eaten at the end of the meal. In the western world, Chinese food is always eaten hand-in-hand with rice; you have your kung pao chicken served on top of rice. But that is not the way it is in China.

In China, all of the individual dishes are served first (which, by the way, typically had the breakdown of 70% vegetables, 20% fish, and 10% meat according to my colleagues) and is eaten tapas-style as a shared family meal. Only until everyone has filled up on the good (and more expensive) food is the rice brought out. Therefore, rice is only as a last chance filler.

This is why China is on the healthiest cultures in the world list. Be like the Chinese and limit simple carbs to the end of the meal and only as a last resort if still hungry.

Read more: Do Carbs Make You Fat?

2. Japan and its Hara Hachi Bu

This popular Japanese phrase translates as, “Eat until you are 80% full.” It means slowing down and evaluating how hungry you are, bite by bite. This is important because it takes the brain 20 minutes to register. If you eat too fast, you’ll blow past the 80% full level. No wonder the Japanese are so trim and fit! They have one of the healthiest cuisines and food cultures in the world. In the US, we always ask each other, “Are you full?” but that spreads the wrong mentality, as over-satiating is not the goal of any meal.

After trying¬†hara hachi bu, is your stomach still grumbling? Registered dietician, Susan Dopart, told the Huffington Post¬†in this piece¬†that, “It can take 15-20 meals to reset the muscle memory of the stomach to get used to less food and people need to trust that will happen. Most are used to eating until full, which is past satiation and which keeps weight on.”

If you are hungry all the time, try¬†intermittent fasting to help you gain control of hunger. Also, don’t eat processed foods. Our stomach tells our brain that it’s full when food volume and the nutrient amount is reached. Processed food lacks the nutrition required for the stomach to send this message.

3. India and its Spices

To me, there is nothing better than a spicy Indian curry. The spices used in Indian cuisine, such as turmeric, coriander, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and fennel seeds, not only add taste and aroma but also impart antibiotic and antiseptic properties. These spices show detoxifying and weight-loss benefits as well. This is why India is on the healthiest cultures in the world list!

Not partial to curry? We love adding 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric to our 2 cups of coffee. Avoid adding cow’s milk, which we’ve been told can cause a negative reaction according to our local barista. Instead, opt for coconut or almond milk and sprinkle in a pinch of black pepper, which makes the nutrients absorbable. Turmeric controls cholesterol and blood sugar levels while promoting heart health. Cheers!

4. Greece and Ikaria Island

The Mediterranean Diet is a well-known diet that focuses on olive oil, fruits, fish, poultry, grains, and greens. The diet from the Blue Zone island of Ikaria shows that families are pescatarian and only eat a few shared animals a year such as lamb. This is in high contrast to Americans who, on average, consume 2,500 animals in a lifetime not counting fish.

The healthy fats from their olive oil as well as high use of natural herbs keep them youthful, dementia-free, and heart disease-free.

Want to take part in the healthiest cuisine of the Greeks? Start your meal off with a salad!

5. Peru and its Superfoods

We love Peru. And Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Costa Rica. We have been living in South America for two years now through TrustedHousesitters, a luxury housesitting website. We always select our home based on it’s close proximity to healthy, local food markets.

Every day in Peru, Ryan and I head to the fresh markets and are always astounded by the wide selection of superfoods sold: chia seeds, quinoa, maca root, spirulina, camu camu, sacha inchi, and cacao. While we had been consuming all of these superfoods for years now in our Shakeology, it was cool to see them in their natural form.

Furthermore, it has been incredible learning that the Inca Empire not only recognized their health benefits but engineered an agricultural system at various altitudes to optimize production. Also, Peru made our healthiest cuisines in the world list because organic, fresh foods rich in taste and nutrients are so readily available. 

The superfood most commonly seen in grocery stores across the world is probably quinoa. Here in Peru, there are up to 2,000 varieties but we typically see red, black, yellow, and Inkan at the markets. Quinoa is one of the few grains that contain all nine essential amino acids. We absolutely love to eat quinoa and our favorite recipes is our Southwest Quinoa Black Bean Salad.

Takeaway Message

While traveling the world, we love learning about food cultures. The food culture in the U.S. is young compared to the 2,500 years of food history in Asia and India. So, there is a lot to learn. Most interesting, we never see fad diets outside of the U.S. and Europe. These are places that have not yet been impacted by the industrialized or processed food era.

The main problem with fad diets is that we are no longer ingesting proper nutrition, so the diet cannot be sustained. A lot of times people ask us what they should be eating to be healthy. Our most simple answer is, “If your great, great, great grandma can look at your plate and recognize the food, that’s a great start.” To take it a step further, make sure you eat mostly plants.¬†

Read more: How to Eat More Vegetables

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