News / Health

What the World's Healthiest People Eat

Everyday choices help prevent disease

Fitness expert Harley Pasternak believes Japanese people are the world's healthiest thanks to a diet rich in fish, whole soy, seaweed and green tea.
Fitness expert Harley Pasternak believes Japanese people are the world's healthiest thanks to a diet rich in fish, whole soy, seaweed and green tea.

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

Different foods, cooking techniques and lifestyles can explain why some people of some cultures are leaner, healthier and living longer than others. Dietitians and health experts say it's important to learn from the world's healthiest countries, if we want to lose weight, fight disease and enjoy a healthier life.

Healthiest Top 10

After years of traveling the globe, fitness expert Harley Pasternak has learned a lot about the diets and lifestyles of the world's healthiest countries. In his new book, "The 5-Factor World Diet", he ranks the world's top 10 healthiest nations.

"The Japanese, in my opinion, are the healthiest population in the world," says Pasternak. "They have the longest lifespan in the world, the lowest incidence of obesity, heart disease and diabetes."

What and how the Japanese eat, he says, explains why they are the healthiest people on earth.

In his new book, "The 5-Factor World Diet", fitness expert Harley Pasternak ranks the world's top 10 healthiest nations.
In his new book, "The 5-Factor World Diet", fitness expert Harley Pasternak ranks the world's top 10 healthiest nations.

"Every meal in Japan looks like a piece of art. Food is so beautiful and so delicious and so simple," says Pasternak. "They are the largest consumer of fish in the world and of whole soy and of seaweed and green tea. When they are about 80 percent full, they stop and wait for about 10 minutes, then decide whether to keep going. And most times, they are full so they don't need to keep eating more."

Three other Asian countries make Pasternak's top ten: Singapore, Korea and China. The list is rounded out by Israel, Sweden, France and two countries on the Mediterranean; Greece and Italy.

Mediterranean diet

"Italian food is extremely healthy from lentils and garbanzo beans to balsamic vinegars, small portions of homemade pastas," he explains. "They eat their largest meal of the day as lunch, not dinner. They have a big feast on Sundays. It's not a daily thing. They have something called passeggiata, so after every dinner they get up as a family and they go for a walk."

That Mediterranean diet is what cardiologist Richard Collins says he always recommends to his clients.

"The Mediterranean diet is very rich in vegetables and fruits and whole grains, lean meats and poultry, a lot of Omega 3 rich fish," says Collins. "And if you look at the lifestyle and eating style, they balance their physical activity with their calorie intake."

Collins is known as the Cooking Cardiologist. He says combining medical and culinary expertise allows him to help people recognize the cooking mistakes that make their diet unhealthy.

"I think the first mistake is they start with unhealthy ingredients," he says. "They are not looking at the natural aspect of food. Number two, in looking at the cooking techniques, I've noticed we're tough on our food. We beat it up. We want it hot, we want it now, we want it deep fried, we want it blackened, we want it burnt. If you look at the European style of cooking, [it's] much more genteel: poaching, steaming, taking your time. We've got to realize that, because what happens when we're doing this to our food, we destroy essential vitamins."

Even small changes in what we eat and how we prepare our food can be very useful, says physician David Servan-Schreiber, author of "Anti-Cancer, A New Way of Life".

"A recent study in China found that women who eat mushrooms three times a week have a 50 percent reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer. If they drink three cups of green tea, three times a week, they also have a 50 percent reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer," says Servan-Schreiber. "If they do both, they have an 89 percent reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer. So these are stunning numbers for something as simple as eating mushrooms and drinking green tea."

Doctors say countries that use lots of spices experience better health and lower cancer rates.
Doctors say countries that use lots of spices experience better health and lower cancer rates.

Spice of Life

Servan-Schreiber says people in countries that use lots of spices also experience better health. "Like turmeric, which is used in India very much, but also along with North African Countries. And everywhere where people use these spices and herbs - like thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, mint and so on - the cancer rates are much lower, and when they have cancer, it's not as aggressive."

Physician Kelly Traver, author of "The Program: The Brain-Smart Approach to the Healthiest You", agrees. She says knowledge about the world's healthiest diets has become more available than ever and can help us fight our worst enemy: obesity.

"What we've now learned is that fat is not just a deposit for energy in our bodies," says Traver. "Actually, each fat cell secretes at least 100 chemicals out of the cell into our bodies, which promote cancer, which promote aging, which promote inflammatory chemicals that can influence dementia, arthritis and heart disease. So, actually fat holds a bigger key in health, clearly, than [just being a] cosmetic issue."

Dietitians and health experts say understanding how important our food choices are, and learning a lesson or two from the world's healthiest nations, can help us live healthier, too.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid