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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs