Which countries have the healthiest diets?
Global rates of type 2 diabetes are on the rise and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO); almost 422 million people are currently living with diabetes.
A range of lifestyle factors, including obesity and age, can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Eating the correct foods therefore, can help a person reduce the risk of developing the condition.
But with 3.9 million people in the UK living with diabetes and 90% of those affected living with type 2, what are we doing wrong? We explore the diets across the world to try and find the answer.
The Mediterranean diet is well-known as one of the world’s healthiest. It features lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and dairy, whole grain cereals and nuts, the occasional glass of red wine and olive oil as the main source of fat. Many studies have highlighted the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and have linked it to improved overall health and a reduction in chronic conditions, including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Anna Daniels, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association said, “The Mediterranean diet is one of the most evidence-based diets for heart health and longevity.”
The people of Japan have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. Recently, this high number was linked to the diet high in certain carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and fish and meat. In 2005, the Japanese government issues a recommended food guide. This encouraged people to eat a diet low in saturated fats and processed foods and instead, eating plenty of rice and vegetable-carbohydrates. Studies found that participants who closely followed the guide were less likely to develop conditions linked to poor blood flow to the brain.
So, how can a nation that loves their cheese and wine have such low rates of obesity?
One study suggested that the quantity of food eaten is the key. While the French may indulge in croissants, meats and cheese, they do it in smaller, more delicate portions. For example, a restaurant in Paris was found to serve dishes containing an average of 277g food, while restaurants in Philadelphia were serving plates filled with 346g food. Researchers also emphasised how eating rich, high quality foods can help a person stop overeating and feeling deprived.
The French diet may contain cheese, bread and wine, but the portion sizes and calorie intake are much smaller than those of British and American people.
One common factor in all of these diets is that they are mainly based around lots of fresh produce, including fruit, vegetables, whole grain cereal and beans. It is also important to choose the right fats, such as extra virgin olive oil and limit portion size.