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,
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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs