Diets Around the World
Different Foods for Different Folks
Why do people in Asia get a fraction of the cancer, heart disease, and diabetes that Americans get? Why are the French, with their rich sauces, so slim?
People may think globally, but we eat locally. Globalized markets have yet to produce a globalized diet even though "Western" cuisine has been the influence. Even so, there has been a shift toward a more diverse menu in recent decades. The majority of people eat foods based on local tastes, traditions, agronomics and incomes. Although average calorie consumption has increased, diets can be healthy and wise.
What do these global areas know about healthy eating?
The Myth: Most Chinese living in China eat meat-centered diets.
The Chinese diet: For centuries, the traditional Chinese diet has been primarily vegetarian - featuring lots of vegetables, rice and soybeans and comprised of only 20% animal foods. The remaining 80% of the diet contains foods that produce the disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals and are responsible for the healthier aspect. Only in the US, Chinese restaurants serve a much larger portion of meat.
Chinese Way - American-Style
- Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice and vegetables should comprise the larger portion of the plate - use meat only as a flavoring
- Skip the deep-fried - focus on entrees made with napa cabbage, bok choy, spinach and broccoli (packed with Vitamin A, C, fiber and phytochemicals
- When dining at home, remember a quarter to one half pound of meat will feed two to three people and always choose low-fat cuts which have loin or round in their name
- Fruits and vegetables should be tops on your list - stir-fry vegetables, add fruits to dishes or make it dessert - the way the Chinese do!
The Myth: The Americanized Mediterranean diet is still a healthy approach.
The Mediterranean diet: the secret to longevity some say! Numerous studies have shown that people who live in countries like Greece, southern Italy, parts of North Africa and the Middle East and who consume fruits and vegetables along with monounsaturated fats have a much lower risk of heart disease. On the other hand, one of the leading causes of death in the United States is heart disease. This may be related to the over-consumption of beef, cheese and other foods high in saturated fats. Over the years, the original Mediterranean diet got lost in translation, and the good diet went bad. More meat and sugar along with cream sauces have been added; thus, decreasing the health benefits.
Go Mediterranean - the traditional version
- Choose vegetarian pasta tossed in olive oil or grilled fish. Skip the cream sauces!
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are staples in this diet - they are low in calorie, fat, and packed full of nutrients
- Purchase breads and bread products made with whole grains and flours - less processed products provide a more sustained level of energy for longer periods - a healthier choice
- For a dessert…choose something that provides one serving of fruit! For example, baked apples, sprinkled with cinnamon and a little sugar
The Myth: Due to their rich diet, the French are heavier than Americans.
The French diet: Only 8% of the French qualify as obese compared to 33% of Americans. Their secret: snack less, eat slowly, and enjoy their food which leads to eating less food overall. Another key to their healthy status is that 60% of their calories is consumed before 2 p.m. The evening meal is small and snacking is limited to a glass juice or a few nuts - fewer calories. Although the French consume three meals a day, they savor each course: crudités (raw vegetables) to start followed by the main course, then salad and fruit for dessert
The French Feast
- Choose crudités for your first course - vegetables with intense color for best nutrient value
- Fresh fish, roasted chicken with herbs, and thinly sliced beef are good choices for a healthy approach
- Consume your salad at the end of the meal selecting dark greens for the most vitamins
- Fresh fruit and small portions of cheese are a good choice for the end of your event
The Myth: In Japan, during the sixth century, meat was declared forbidden and still is...
The Japanese diet: A feast for the palate and visual portrait. Anything to make their meatless wonders more appetizing. Today, the Japanese are free to eat meat but are still known for their aesthetic appetite. From the menu selections to the serving plates -- they simply spend more time enjoying their meals. Meals are prepared to be "eaten with the eyes" in order to make their meals a more meaningful, sensory experience. The "eat-on-the-run" is a US concept. Taking longer than 20 minutes to eat gives your brain time to respond to the increased glucose levels - ultimately, you feel fuller. The Japanese diet is low in fat and reports the world's longest healthy life expectancy - 74.5 years - 4 ½ years longer than for Americans!
Translate Japanese to American
- Allot a specific time period for meals - at least 20 minutes or more
- Eliminate distractions such as TVs, telephones
- Create the atmosphere like lighting a candle and appreciate the moment
- Sit down and let the meal nourish your body, mind and spirit!