[Here’s another in the series of healthy eating and lifestyle posts from Dave Banko.]
Shortly after I started eating more healthily, another TV program aired called, “50 of the World’s Best and Worst Diets.” Countries were ranked by average lifespans, rates of obesity, and other health issues, then related to their diet and lifestyle. The results are fascinating!
#50 – Marshall Islands
- Health – Highest death rate from diabetes
- Diet – White (refined) rice, tinned [canned] vegetables, and high-fat processed meats
#49 – Russia
- Health – ¼ of men die before age 55, high rates of liver disease, alcohol poisoning and car accidents
- Diet – High consumption of Vodka
#44 – Mexico
- Health – 1/3 of the population is obese
- Diet – Lots of soft drinks and processed calories, lack of fresh and natural foods
#43 – USA
- Health – High diabetes and obesity
- Diet – Super-sized portions with processed food and cheap sweeteners like corn syrup (fructose)
#38 – Australia
- Health – Fastest growing rate of obesity
- Diet – Plenty of Meat and Beer!
#13 – South Korea
- Health – Lowest obesity rate
- Diet – Lots of fresh fish and lots of vegetables and fermented foods
#10 – Netherlands
- Health – Tallest people in the world
- Diet – Lots of milk and milk products!
#8 – France
- Health – Low levels of cholesterol and heart disease
- Diet – Red wine, cheese, high saturated fat dishes!
#7 – Kuna Indians
- Health – Lowest levels of cardiovascular disease and blood pressure
- Diet – Lots of chocolate (up to 5 cups a day) in combination with plantains, coconuts and fish
#5 – Japan
- Health – longest life expectancy for women
- Diet – Rich in vegetables and fish
#3 & 2 – (Greece & Italy)
- Health – Long life span
- Diet – Rich in legumes, fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil, wine, dairy, pasta, whole grain rice, and red meat
#1 – Iceland
- Health – Longest overall average life span
- Diet – fish, red meat and dairy from grass-fed animals, and few fruits and vegetables
Why is this important? Diet information is about as confusing as it gets, fat or no fat, all meat or vegetarian, carbs or no carbs. If you look at these best diets in the world, it seems to only add to the confusion.
- How can the best diet in the world include few fruits & vegetables?
- How can the French have such low levels of cholesterol and heart disease with a diet loaded with high saturated fat?
- Who got excited when they saw #7 was high in chocolate?!
The facts are:
- Icelanders eat the fresh produce from the land and sea with little processing.
- The French consume rich food, but in small portions and take their time – enjoying life.
- The Italians eat pasta with every meal, (made from complex carb flour) even when dieting, with lots of fresh, simple ingredients and small portions.
Most of the diet plans out there were put together as something that worked for someone else. But it wasn’t mine, or what I like to eat.
Recipes are helpful, but need to be adapted to what you like to become a healthy eating lifestyle you can sustain.
There are general principles to follow:
- Avoid or minimize: sugar & sugary products, processed foods, foods with lots of chemicals, and refined foods
- Reduce portion sizes – This goes without saying as the curse of our own abundance in a super-sized or ‘all you can eat’ culture.
The countries with the worst diets overindulge in less-healthy food and empty calories.
- Balance & variety – our bodies need lots of different nutrients for health. I’d be wary of any program that eliminates or focuses on any one food group.
- 80/20 rule – ‘I adhere to the 80/20 rule. I eat healthily 80 per cent of the time, and that leaves me free to eat what I want for the remaining 20 per cent. And those cheat meals taste so much better when they are a treat rather than the norm,’ Bear Grylls. I follow this myself, relaxing my program on the weekends to have some ice cream, mashed potatoes, or other treats which I avoid during the week.
I’ll share more about the principles and specific techniques in future posts.
For now, pick a balanced program closest to the type of food you generally like to eat, and use it as your starting point. But don’t be afraid to experiment and adapt it to what you like and what works for you.
Until next time!
P.S. – In case you were interested, here’s the link to the countries in the middle.