We’ve all heard of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, high in fresh greens, Omega 3 from olive oil; lean protein and a bit of cheese and wine. But what we don’t hear enough about is the lifestyle that goes with these diets. What else are healthy people doing around the world that helps to keep them slim and stay out of the doctor’s office?
There are many countries with a Mediterranean coastline, but the one’s best known for the health benefits of their diets are Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Crete, and Israel. Particularly southern Italy, Greece and Crete were the countries that had the lowest rates of chronic disease and highest life expectancy in comparison to other areas of the world when the studies were done that led to the revelation of the Mediterranean diet.
Souvenirs from the Diet Tour
Along with good food, southern Italy, Greece and Crete have some other important factors in common. The people live a lifestyle that understands the value of community, friends, family, relaxation, living close to the earth, and appreciating traditions. The terrain in that part of the world also lends itself to a lot of exercise; people walk more and there are a lot of hills.
Here are a few interesting healthy tips that most of the Mediterranean countries have in common.
- Eat lots of fresh vegetables
- Eat lots of fresh fish
- Aged cheese complements the cuisine
- 1 or 2 glasses of red wine per day (usually lunchtime)
- Long lunch breaks with friends (1 to 2 hours)
- Smaller portion sizes (especially of pasta and bread)
- Nuts and legumes
- Whole grains in moderation
- Very active lifestyles well into old age
- Red meats and sweets make up the smallest portion of their diets
Asia Comes in 2nd place
On the other side of the world, Asia is a close contender for the healthiest diet and lifestyle with some interesting similarities. Two of the dietary factors that cause the Asian cuisine to have a lower score are white rice and too much salt. Below are some of the benefits of the Asian diet and lifestyle.
- Lots of vegetables
- Lots of seafood
- Fermented foods
- Lots of walking
Like most other places, meals are very social. However, especially in Korea, eating alone is frowned upon and generally people eat only 3 meals a day without snacking in between.
The American Diet Fails
Not just the USA, but many countries have been influenced by overly processed and packaged food trends. Any food that comes in a box, a can or a fast food container is less healthy than fresh produce and locally caught or raised livestock. Over production of food, and invented foods such as sodas, snacks, sweets, processed meats, cereals, grain based products, and high fructose corn syrup are the main culprits that contribute to the obesity epidemic.
In addition to the above western dietary problems, we consume too much of the wrong type of fats and not enough Omega 3’s. But the hidden issue driving our weight and diet problems is stress. Americans are always in a hurry, always under pressure, and becoming less and less able to enjoy life.
When was the last time you took a two-hour lunch break with a friend and a glass of red wine?