Choosing to eat good food, full of nutrients, for good health is a great idea but have you wondered which diet is the healthiest diet?
Over many years scientists have tried to ascertain which diet might be the healthiest. By considering the longevity of a population and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases or chronic health problems, such as diabetes or hypertension, researchers have tried to identify the diets that may be amongst the healthiest on the planet – that is, the diets that are least likely to contribute to long-term health issues or an early death.
In the Western world health and well-being is less likely to be affected by public health issues like clean drinking water, sanitation and access to medication. As a result the health of Western societies is often linked to the modern Western diet. The unhealthy food we eat is often seen as a likely contributor to our poor health, as is our urbanized and inactive lifestyle.
The Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet and the Japanese diet have all been identified as amongst the healthiest diets on the planet. There is a diverse range of foods in these diets and each has its quirks (green tea, anyone?) so it is probably most helpful to identify the types of food that are commonly eaten by the populations of Greece, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Japan.
Many of the foods consumed in these countries are remarkably similar.
- Fruit and vegetables (including root vegetables)
- Wholegrain cereals – including oats and rye bread
- Nuts and legumes (beans and pulses)
- Fish (including oily fish), good quality meat
- Dairy foods (milk, cheese and yoghurt)
- Olive oil, rapeseed/canola oil
- Red wine (occasionally)
These foods contain a range of nutrients that have important functions in the body. Overall the diets contain little in the way of processed foods, sugar or salt.
The Eatwell Guide
In the UK an updated Eatwell Guide has recently been published. This guide is meant to provide a guideline as to the range of foods that should be eaten over the course of a day or a week. I would like to think that this can be used in conjunction with all we know about the world’s healthiest diets.
There is probably not one diet that is the ‘healthiest diet’. Neither is there only one way for each of us to become healthier. However, our health and wellbeing is likely to benefit from including the types of foods that feature in the diets of these reportedly healthy populations. It is a shame we often disdain these nutritious foods as ‘rabbit food’ or avoid them due to their unfamiliar tastes – for me, rye bread is good with soup.
Consider developing a ‘back-to-basics’ style of eating, using simple and inexpensive foods that are full of nutrients. If you can, choose locally produced and seasonal foods. Take time to explore new foods, recipes and cooking methods so that one day you can say that you eat just like those with the ‘healthiest diet’.
Eating foods that you like and enjoy, and which nourish your body, is probably the easiest way to develop a healthier lifestyle.
Enjoy Good Food for Good Health