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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs