A healthy diet can help us lead a healthy and happy lifestyle. In fact, some of the worlds healthiest diets can even help us live longer but have you considered following one of them?
There are plenty of healthy plates and platters that we can create at home, which originate from some of our favourite holiday destinations. Even while we can’t go on holiday, we can make it feel like we’re away. Take your tastebuds on a journey and be healthy at the same time!
Let us start our culinary journey on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Why the Mediterranean Diet is one of the healthiest in the world
The Mediterranean diet comes from traditional meals found in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain.
Think of fresh vegetables, fruits, beans and cereal products such as wholegrain bread, pasta and brown rice. Fish, white meat and some dairy products are also eaten in moderation. When you combine all the ingredients found in the Mediterranean diet, there are plenty of positive health benefits.
What are the health benefits of following a Mediterranean Diet?
- Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Decrease high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Lower your risk of heart disease
- You may live longer
- You may lose some excess weight
How is the Mediterranean diet healthy?
The Mediterranean diet is good for you because it is full of healthy fats like olive oil (a monounsaturated fat) and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in nuts, seeds and oily fish.
Although the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world, there are no specific foods that are said to enhance our health and wellbeing. What makes it healthy is the combination of olive oil with green leafy salads and vegetables. This is because the formation of nitro fatty acids between the two food groups can lower your blood pressure.
What are the top 5 healthy foods on the Mediterranean Diet food list?
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (a monounsaturated fat), which you can drizzle across salads.
- Non-starchy, leafy greens like spinach, watercress and Romaine lettuce
- Oily fish like salmon, sardines and sprats, which are small oily fish full of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Legumes that are high in protein, such as chickpeas and lentils
- Nuts and seeds which are good to snack on like walnuts.
Another destination that boasts a healthy diet is Japan.
Why the Japanese Diet is one of the healthiest in the world
In Japan, a traditional Japanese diet includes large amounts of grains and pulses, including rice and soy, plus seasonal and pickled vegetables with fish. The modern Japanese diet contains raw fish, which is found in sushi and sashimi.
However, either modern or traditional, when you are living the Japanese lifestyle, you will consume a small amount of animal protein, dairy, added sugars, fats and fruits.
Why is the Japanese diet so healthy?
The Japanese diet is good for your health because it is low in calories and saturated fat but high in nutrients, such as antioxidants and flavonoids, which are found in different coloured vegetables.
A typical Japanese diet also contains plant-based foods such as soy, which contains phytoestrogens. It is the phytoestrogens that can lower the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, breast cancer, as well as menopausal symptoms.
What are the benefits of following a Japanese diet?
- Studies have shown that the traditional Japanese diet leads to long life expectancy
- It reduces the risk of heart disease due to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish
- The risk of having a stroke is reduced
- Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduces the chances of age-related diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s
- Aids weight loss, plus there is a lower chance of living with obesity
- Improves digestion
The top 5 healthy Japanese foods to put on your grocery list are:
- Soya beans that can be used to create tofu, edamame or yuba
- Fermented soybean products like miso soup
- Sea vegetables, such as seaweed
- Thin ramen or thick udon noodles
- Matcha tea, made from green tea powder
The Japanese way of eating food is communal. To enjoy a Japanese meal with a small group of friends, instead of giving each one a large plate each, give them small bowls and several different dishes to share. For instance, a bowl of rice, miso, fresh fish and selection of vegetables, then eat together in rotation. This is known as “Washoku”.
A popular Japanese meal you could try is miso soup with tofu and cabbage. However, if you like your fish turn to a country in Scandinavia and try the Nordic diet.
The Nordic Diet
The Nordic or Scandinavian diet is relatively new, compared to the traditional Japanese diet. However, it is similar because it includes plant-based foods. How it differs is the diets main aim – to eat seasonal, healthy and locally sourced foods, which are produced Scandinavian countries.
To start the new Nordic diet or to live a Nordic lifestyle, you will need to avoid all processed meats, additives; refined fast foods and sugary drinks.
What does the Nordic diet consist of?
- High-quality carbohydrates: wholegrain cereals like rye bread, barley and oats
- Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes
- Fatty fish, which include salmon, mackerel and herring
- Legumes – peas and beans
- Low-fat dairy products such as skimmed milk and cottage cheese.
- Rapeseed oil, which is related to the turnip family but has a nutty flavour.
- Berries – strawberries and blueberries
What are the health benefits of the Nordic diet?
- It fosters weight loss
- Lowers your blood pressure
- Decreases the risk of heart attacks
- Improves cognitive function and prevents cognitive decline
- Protects you against metabolic syndrome
- Reduces the inflammation within fat tissue
The Nordic diet versus the Mediterranean diet
You would be right in thinking that the Nordic diet shares a few similarities with the Mediterranean diet. Both diets include plant foods and fatty fish, as well as no processed foods. However, the Nordic diet contains rapeseed or canola oil instead of olive oil.
If you fancy living the Nordic lifestyle, try making some Nordic Sourdough bread – Rugbrød. Or, if you would like to eat the best of British, bring out your inner caveman or cavewomen, with the Paleo diet.
The Paleo Diet
What is the Paleo Diet?
When our ancestors were cavemen and women they used to fuel their days by eating natural and nutritious foods to give them the energy they needed. The Paleo (or caveman diet) is full of meat and fish which are high in protein, as well as vegetables and fruits.
What are the health benefits of following the Paleo Diet?
- Increased insulin sensitivity because the pancreas doesn’t have to work as hard to produce insulin.
- Improved heart health and lower cholesterol, which is good news for those with diabetes and heart disease.
- More energy because the foods in the Paleo diet are low carb and low on the Glycemic Index (GI)
- Less inflammation because fewer calories are being consumed regularly, unlike processed foods.
How is the Paleo diet healthy?
The Paleo diet is good for you because it contains unprocessed food and fewer carbohydrates. Processed foods are strictly off the menu, as they were not available thousands of years ago. The Paleo diet can improve your heart health, while aiding weight loss. Plus, you can eat as little as you like; you are still likely to feel full and satisfied. In true caveman style, you could even go foraging for yourself!
What are the top 5 healthy foods on the Paleo food list?
- Lean meats high in protein such as chicken and turkey
- Eggs, another good source of protein
- Non-starchy vegetables you can grow and forge, such as peppers and mushrooms
- Nuts low in fat like almonds, pecans and walnuts
- Fruits low in sugar like strawberries and peaches.
To kick start your paleo lifestyle, begin the day by beating some eggs and adding a selection of vegetables to make a frittata which is also an Italian dish!
Which is your favourite healthiest diet? We hope we have inspired you to try something different and take your tastebuds somewhere new while maintaining your health and wellbeing while at home.
If you decide to journey to the Mediterranean, Japan or Scandinavia to taste the treasures of these destinations soon, don’t forget to take Free Spirit Travel Insurance for peace of mind. We also provide cover if you decide to travel to a destination which the FCDO (previously known as the FCO) have advised against too! Find out more by generating a quote and arrange cover here.