While health is partially linked to genetics and stress levels, our eating and exercise habits are the primary factors that we can change through our daily habits. We all know the basics of healthy eating, but over the years, new and conflicting findings can make choices confusing and frustrating.
Life spans are getting longer in the U.S., yet obesity rate continue to rise. Maybe we should look outside our country to cultures that are not only living long lives, but healthier one. What do the citizens of the healthiest countries eat? In most cases, the food choices are not surprising, because their healthfulness have been touted for years!
According to the 2014 annual report from the World Health Organization (WHO), Japanese women on average live the longest in the world at 87 years old. The traditional Japanese diet is high in fish and low in meat and other sources of saturated fat.
The Mediterranean diet, which took the country by storm over the last decade, is very easy to adapt and neutral enough to satisfy even the pickiest of palates. The WHO report ranked Italy with the 5th highest lifespan. Countries in the Mediterranean region eat lots of fruits and vegetables and heart healthy olive oil and a moderate intake of red wine. Lunch is also the largest meal, which gives people the rest of the day to burn those calories.
While the recipes may be different, French cuisine has some parallels to the Mediterranean diet. But they take the decedent rich foods to another level, enjoying cream, cheese, and wine the key is this is all done in moderation. Theres also the common theme of making lunch the main course and eating their meals at a much slower pace.
Now for an entry that gets less press. Iceland is home to the highest life expectancy for men at 81.2 years old. They live in a country call Ice-land. So, what gives? Maybe its whats going on above the shoulders. In a survey, 73 percent of the Icelanders said they were content, whereas only 33 percent of North Americans could say the same thing. Theories for this contentment is enough for another story, but the takeaway is that mental health plays a vital role in our longevity.
Its not just about what you eat. Medical advances and education on preventive care allow people to address health issues before they become fatal. According to the WHO report, In developed countries, less people are dying from heart disease and stroke before the age of 60, due to preventive medications and even lifestyle changes at the behest of health care providers.
One reason the U.S. lags behind much of the developed world in life expectancy (were 34th overall) is a larger cultural issue. Living in a consumerist society means we are in a race to keep up with the Joneses, to working more hours and days than most first world countries. While much of that drive results in positive outcomes, it may be worth reassessing our goals and learn a few lessons from other cultures.