The Healthiest Cuisines in the World
An Indian, Greek, and Peruvian walk into a bar… and order an amazingly healthy meal 😉
We caught the travel bug years ago and 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 love discovering the healthiest cuisines and learning about the healthiest cultures. In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the food and eating habits of five countries that represent the best of the best.
So, let’s learn about the diets of the healthiest cultures 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. The Chinese have deep-rooted philosophies in eating styles tied directly into natural medicine. However, that could be a whole article in and of itself (yin and yang, “hot” and “cold” foods anyone!?).
Instead, there is one very practical, and surprising, mealtime rule that surprised us: rice is only eaten at the end of the meal.
In the western world, Chinese food is always eaten hand-in-hand with rice. For example, 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. According to our colleagues, it was typical to order 70% vegetables, 20% fish, and 10% meat dishes. The dishes were 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 last resort filler.
This one of many reasons why China is one of the healthiest cultures in the world. Be like the Chinese and limit simple carbs for the end of the meal and only if you’re still hungry. The Chinese also maintain a healthy weight by not drinking soda. Our colleagues referred to Coca-Cola as “liquid obesity.”
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. Over-satiating is not the goal of any meal.
After trying hara hachi bu, is your stomach still grumbling? Registered dietician, Susan Dopart, share the following with the Huffington Post.
“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.”
For hara hachi bu to work, you can’t eat processed foods. Our stomach sends two messages to our brain before the “I’m full” light turns on.
The first message sends when the stomach is running out of space. The second message triggers when adequate nutrient levels are reached. Since processed foods lack adequate nutrition that second message never sends. Meaning you can eat too much and not feel full. Or, you might become hungry again in a short time.
Follow our ultimate healthy eating guide to make sure you have theses highest quality, highest nutrition foods on your next grocery list.
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. Or, add a thimble sized piece of fresh turmeric root to your smoothie. Avoid adding cow’s milk, which can cause a negative reaction (overheating on the inside).
Instead, mix turmeric with coconut or almond milk and a pinch of black pepper. This combination makes the nutrients more bio-available or absorbable inside your body. Turmeric controls cholesterol and blood sugar levels, promotes heart health, and reduces inflammation which aids in recovering from injuries.
Fasting is a way of worship in India that also has health benefits. Fasting improves self-discipline and it gives our bodies much needed time to focus on detoxing. Intermittent fasting has become quite popular for these benefits along with weight loss and increased focus.
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.
Additionally, food on Ikaria Island are fresh and almost all locally grown. These fresh foods are the most nutritious. Almost everything is prepared with fresh olive oil. 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? Buy fresh ingredients at the farmer’s market and start your meal off with a salad.
Also, how about a glass of red wine? According to the Greeks, drinking is healthy in moderation, especially if you enjoyed with loved ones.
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.
If you want to eat more like the Peruvians, add these three items to your cart:
What We Can Learn From The Healthiest Cuisines
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 rarely see fad diets outside of the U.S. and Europe. The main problem with fad diets is that we are no longer ingesting proper nutrition, so the diet cannot be sustained.
Additionally, countries listed on our healthiest cuisines list have been minimally impacted by the industrialized or processed food era.
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
What is the healthiest cuisine that you have experienced? Comment below and fill us in on the healthy cuisine or food culture.
- Use Your Noodle: The Real Chinese Diet Is So Healthy it could Solve the West’s Obesity Problem – The Independent – “The Chinese don’t have a word for “calories”. They view food as nourishment, not potential weight gain. A 1990 survey found that Chinese people consumed 30 per cent more calories than Americans, but were not necessarily more active. Clissold says their secret is avoiding the empty calories of sugary, nutrient-free foods.”
- Which Country has the World’s Best Diet? – The Telegraph – “African countries have some of the best diets in the world, according to a new study.
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Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “happiness engineers.” After eight years working as corporates engineers internationally, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — leading couples to engineer their best lives. The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship, as a couple.