There seems to an article every other week pointing out that other nations diets are better than our own western diet to live a long and healthy life. Whether it is the French girl’s diet, the Mediterranean diet or the Japanese diet, they all have virtues that seem missing from our processed fast food generation. We ask our nutrition experts to give us their take on the healthiest diets from across the world.
Katy Mason, Nutritionist at NutriCentre.com says ”Traditional cooking from any country is healthy this is because traditional cooking involves basic ingredients home cooked, without any additives or preservatives. When you take meat, fish, dairy, pulses, fruits and vegetables then cook them at home with the herbs and spices you have to hand you really can’t go wrong.” Katy gives us her opinion on Italian, Japanese and Icelandic cuisines.
Italy (olive oil, fruits and vegetables, proscuitto)
‘The great thing about Italian food is its quality dried meats and cheeses, lovingly made and simply prepared to make the most of them. There is little processing and often food can just be served as it is with a drizzle of olive oil on the top. Like most traditional foods it is based on the basics; vegetables, fruits, meat and seafood with lots of olive oil. Olive oil is high in poly unsaturated fats and omega oils which is great for the heart and brain. Olive oil is best eaten raw so try adding it to food after it has been cooked as heating it will damage the molecular structure of it.
Prosciutto is a dry cured ham that is served very thinly, it is lean and traditionally prepared raw, meaning it has not been heated. Also, if it is traditionally made, it has nothing nasty added to it and tastes so much nicer.
Japan (fresh fish, cruciferous vegetables, soy, complex carbs e.g buckwheat noodles)
”One of the easiest things I encourage my clients to use from the Japanese cuisine are their wonderfully balanced and healthy seasonings. People often get the basics right starting with meat and vegetables but then smother them in ready made sauces, which are often high in salt, sugar additives, preservatives and cheap fats. Add flavour with these top seasonings:
“Tamari is made from fermented soya beans and is a gluten free soya sauce, it has a flavour which is often more concentrated than standard soya sauce but does not have that overpoweringflavour you get with some soya sauces. Try Clearspring’s authentic Tamari Mansan, £3.19 from nutricentre.com.
“Ume plumb seasoning. This tart seasoning really wakes up your digestive system, it is the juice left over after the pickling of umeboshi, plumbs pickled in salt. Umeboshi can also be used to flavour foods but often they are eaten on their own and really can’t be beaten for their incredible salty, sour and sharp taste. Japanese pickled plums have remarkable qualities, they have an alkalinizing effect on the body, neutralising fatigue, stimulating the digestion, and promoting the elimination of toxins. Miso has been used as a folk remedy for digestive ailments, radiation sickness and several types of intestinal infections which promotes a healthy pH in the digestive system. Add miso to soups and other dishes but not when they are boiling hot ,as this will destroy some of miso goodness. An easy way to incorporate miso into your diet is to make a hot drink out of it or to spread it on toast, which is delicious.”
Iceland (fresh fish, high quality meat e.g lamb, dairy products)
Icelanders are one if the planets healthiest people, this could largely be due to the fat that they are so sheltered from the rest of the world. They have less pollution meaning their food may be less contaminated and they still hunt, fish and forage for some of their food. They rely more on family farms than industrial ones. Their cows are fed on grass, whereas most cows in the west are now fed on grain, grass fed cows will produce milk that is higher in omega fats and vitamins like beta carotene. Because they are so remote, it will be harder for them to get hold of processed foods meaning they will be eating a more whole foods based diet. Their pure waters are full of seafood, which is a large part of their diet.
If there was one message that I would say we could take from Icelanders, it would be to eat the purest food you can afford, buy organic, buy grass fed butter and make sure you are eating enough oily fish. Avoid large fish, like tuna, which are higher in pollutants and do not eat processed foods.
Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist and author of Fat Around The Middle takes a look at Swedish, Ethiopian and South Korean diets.
Sweden (dairy, dark breads e.g rye and pumpernickel, berries)
”Like the Icelandic diet, the Swedish eat high quality dairy products and they are well known for producing healthy fermented dairy products. One of the them which is similar to yogurt is filmjölk, but uses different beneficial bacteria to yogurt. 70% of our immune system is in our gut so these beneficial bacteria are crucial to our health. They also have good quality complex unrefined carbohydrates in the form of rye and pumpernickel breads, which we know are important for our health.”
Ethiopia (lentils, red onions, aubergine, grains e.g teff)
”Teff is a grain which is high in fibre, iron, protein and calcium, so is a very nutritious staple of the Ethiopian diet and confers many healthy benefits. The lentils are also important nutritionally as they are classed as phytoestrogens and actually have a balancing effect on hormones both for men and women. They are also high in fibre which is important in promoting digestive health and reducing the risk of bowel cancer.”
South Korea (tofu, noodles, fish, and fermented vegetables known as kimchi)
”Like the Japanese diet, the South Korean diet is very healthy. It’s traditionally high in Omega 3 fats from the fish and also contains tofu, which has a balancing effect on hormones and soya has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer. The health benefits of soya are there when it is eaten in its traditional forms and not as soya isolate. The fermented vegetables are giving important beneficial bacteria which help improve immune function. Kimchi is high in fibre but low in calories and is high in vitamins A, B1, B2, calcium and iron. It is also made with garlic which has anti-bacterial and anti-viral benefits.”
Dr. Marilyn Glenville PhD (www.marilynglenville.com) is launching a series of Women’s Hormonal Health Weekends with the aim of helping women learn more about controlling stress and improving their hormone balance, health and general wellbeing. These very special two night retreats will be held in the luxury health spa, Champneys in Tring www.champneys.com or call 0843 316 2222.
Looking for a particular health food? Check out NutriCentre’s exciting new food range at www.nutricentre.com.