When someone begins a diet, they typically don’t consider diets around the world to base their own off of. Yet, other cultures actually have tremendously healthy diets we could learn a few things from. While, of course, not every diet in other cultures is necessarily weight loss friendly, a good handful of diets around the world actually do have proven weight loss benefits. Check out some of these that are most popular diets around the world for their weight loss and heart health benefits.
The Mediterranean diet is arguably one of the most well known diets around the world to model our own after. Full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fish, and a little bit of cultured dairy, the Mediterranean Diet is a clean diet, full of nature's best foods. Because it has so many plant foods and no red meat, it’s naturally a heart healthy approach that will also help keep you trim. Olive oil contains oleic acid that naturally halts hunger and the healthy fats will help your body absorb more nutrients from vitamin and mineral rich produce in the diet. The omega 3 fats in fish, nuts, and seeds are also incredible for your heart, waistline, and your brain health. Dishes like salads, cooked vegetables, fresh fruit, homemade yogurt, whole grain breads, fresh fish, and a variety of nuts and seeds are common at almost every Mediterranean style meal. It’s also fairly low in salt, which is great for blood pressure and diabetes.
You may have heard of Ayurveda and probably associated it strictly with yoga. Yet, did you know that an Ayurvedic diet is also one of the healthiest in the world? The Ayurvedic diet strictly emphasizes no processed or fast food. Its followers are also adamant about consuming a variety of produce. The trick is to eat to balance the “doshas,” which contain three descriptive types that relate to our personalities, health histories, and our heritage. Our doshas also have a great deal to do with our mental and physical health. When you eat a natural diet that enhances your doshas, you can be your healthiest, happiest self and weigh your optimal weight. You'll also be less prone to inflammation, stress, disease, and weight gain. Most people who follow an Ayurvedic diet come from regions in India, however this approach is also used by many people across the world following Ayurveda principles.
They say French women never get fat, so there must be some truth to the way they eat to stay so slim. If you hate deprivation, this diet is for you. French women don’t cut out foods. They simply eat less of whatever they do eat and enjoy every bite of the little bit they do. Butter, croissants, meat, and of course, a little cake are all highly enjoyed on this diet. However, what they don’t do is eat the entire serving, or even a half of it. They might eat a nibble and leave the rest alone, just enough to satisfy their craving. They also eat throughout the day, so they’re never hungry. French people mostly base their diet on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and very little meat though. You can easily see why their diet is often said to be one of the healthiest and most doable to follow. It’s harder for Americans to eat this way because we’re used to the all or nothing approach. We can’t fathom leaving any bit of that yummy cake on the plate, so why not eat the whole thing? It’s one reason many people can’t eat like French women do without gaining weight. Yet, if you think you could practice restraint and enjoy just a little bit of your favorite foods while focusing on the good stuff, the French diet is a great model to follow. Other tips they follow are to eat very slowly, allowing food time to digest, and time to savor it to completion. This satisfies you more, and helps fill your body up naturally and more efficiently. They also emphasize having the largest meal at lunch, which allows plenty of time to burn off the calories throughout the day, and they have an active lifestyle as well.
The macrobiotic diet is a common diet many of you might have already heard of. The macrobiotic diet is derived from Japan and is based off a theory developed by a Japanese educator named George Ohsawa. Ohsawa focused on simplicity above all else in terms of food. The key principles of this diet are that all food should be simple, not contain too many flavors or seasonings in one meal, be well cooked, and a focus on digestion is given an absolute priority. The core principles of this diet are said to enrich physical, spiritual, and planetary health. I can see why this diet is so popular because it features mostly vegetables, minimal fruits, whole grains, seaweed, legumes and beans, and very little, if any, animal protein. It’s also very low in additives, fats, contains no stimulants, refined sweets, or any other foods people seem to go overboard with here in America. The macrobiotic diet is also high fiber, which promotes regularity, a healthy heart, and stabilized blood sugar levels.
You may or may not have heard of the Okinawa group of people from Japan. Okinawa is a popular area from Japan that is well known for its healthy inhabitants. They’ve actually been called the healthiest group of people in the world due to their incredibly low fat, produce-rich diet. People in Okinawa eat fermented miso soup before every meal to encourage digestion, assimilation of nutrients, and to add a filling factor to meals to reduce the urge to overeat. Most actual meals contain a lot of color from a lot of produce into each meal. People from this region don’t eat red meat and only use animal proteins to flavor their meals, not as a base. This culture also follows a strict rule of only eating until you’re 80% full. Try this at home by filling up your plate with half of what you think you need instead of piling it high and insisting on cleaning it dry. Most people find that they really don’t need as much food as they think, and often, when left to let their food sit and digest, they become fuller over time.
Norway, Sweden, and Denmark offer other European cultures we can all learn from. They have one of the lowest heart attack risk rates of people across the world, making their diet worth looking into. A typical diet from these regions would feature things like fresh foods from local farmers markets, whole grains with an emphasis on heart healthy rye, and fresh fish that’s caught locally. I realize most of you don’t have access to your own home grown rye berries, fresh fish that’s from a neighboring body of water, or other benefits these cultures have. However, most of us have access to farmers markets, and can find suitable wild caught fish at most supermarkets. We can also choose to buy 100% whole grains (not whole grain products like breads and crackers), instead of refined or processed versions. This diet is arguably so healthy for its low glycemic level, low levels of unhealthy fats, and its richness in fiber.
The flexitarean diet doesn’t necessarily belong to a certain culture, but it’s a common approach to eating seen across the entire world. It is a new approach to being vegetarian that many people find much easier to follow. Instead of taking away foods, you’re encouraged to focus on adding plant foods into your diet.. There's also a large emphasis on consuming a smart and balanced calorie intake at each meal. A focus on this diet is to find new sources of “meat” like tofu, beans, quinoa, whole grains, fat-free organic dairy in moderation, legumes, nuts, seeds, and seaweed. Of course, including all the other amazing fruits and veggies is encouraged as well. Then, anytime animal foods are desired, they are included and should be enjoyed on this diet. To keep this the healthiest approach possible, steer clear of processed animal foods and processed foods overall. You should also be sure to choose fresh food whenever possible. Having a diet mainly comprised of plant-based foods in their natural form is one of the simplest, most effective ways to maintain a healthy heart and a healthy weight. A typical day on the diet usually clocks in around 1500 calories spread throughout breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two small snacks.
To learn more about these diets around the world, feel free to check out some of the sources below. While I don’t like to follow a strict diet, I think many diets around the world are worth looking into to learn about other cultures thriving in health. They obviously have something that any one of us can learn a thing or two from! Do you follow one of these diets around the world, or have one to share that you like?
Sources: fitnessmagazine.com, altmedicine.about.com, altmedicine.about.com, health.usnews.com
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