Here in Australia, we’re a pretty healthy bunch. We’re the 5th healthiest country in the world to be exact, according to the 2017 Bloomberg Global Health index.
The ranking isn’t too shabby. But considering we live in a beautiful, sunny nation with access to some of the best fresh food in the world, I still reckon we could be doing better (especially considering our obesity rates are still sky high.) So, to help us climb to the top of that list, it’s worth looking at how the healthy ladies in other countries are eating.
From chic Parisians who manage to stay trim despite eating croissants daily to the statuesque and effortlessly slim Swedes, scroll through the gallery for healthy eating secrets from women all over the world.
French women are famed for their ability to eat rich foods like bread and cheese and stay slim. So, how on earth to they do it? It’s all about quality, not quantity. Whether it’s a croissant or some decadent cheese, French women don’t deprive themselves of anything — they simply stick to a small serving and savour every bite. They also say ‘non’ to snacking and opt for black coffee over kilojoule-dense, milky lattes.
In Japan, there’s a saying, “hara hachi bu,” which roughly translates to “eat until you’re 80% full”. This phrase originated in the Japanese island of Okinawa, where many people live to be over 100 — so they must be doing something right! Another Japanese custom is to serve miso soup with each meal. It’s low in fat and carbohydrates and high in protein, so is said to keep you full for longer and keep you from snacking in between meals. It’s probably a big part of these reason Japanese people can eat rice three times a day and still stay slim!
Mediterranean islands like Italy, Spain and Greece consistently pop up in the lists of the world’s healthiest countries. The traditional way of eating (known as the Mediterranean diet) is rich in healthy fats and moderate in carbohydrates and protein. Think lots of fruit, veggies and healthy fats like nuts and olive oil and small amounts of meat and whole grains. When coupled with physical activity, this way of eating has been linked to many health benefits — like a smaller waistline, increased longevity and reduced risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer.
While we may associate Chinese food with fried rice and oily noodles, their traditional diet is actually one of the healthiest in the world. The idea of harmony and balance is a huge part of Chinese culture and this figures into their way of eating. According to Chinese medicine, meals should balance ingredients that are yin (wet and moist) and yang (dry and crisp). Yin foods are normally carbohydrates that cool down the body, and yang foods are usually proteins that heat it up. According to Harley Pasternak’s book The 5-Factor Diet, Chinese people usually try to incorporate 5 different colours into their meals, too. These two principles ensure that meals include a balanced ratio of macronutrients. The Chinese custom of using chopsticks is also useful for practicing portion control, as it slows you down when you’re eating your meal.
Ancient Indian healing practices gave rise to the now popular Ayurvedic diet. This involves eating in accordance to the three ayurvedic doshas (or body types) — Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The idea is that you should align your eating style to your dosha, in order to maintain balance within the body. You can find out which dosha you are here. Another important part of the traditional Indian diet is the generous use of spices like cardamon and chili. These thermogenic foods are known to speed up your metabolism and assist with burning fat.
Swedish women are known for being just as slim as they are statuesque — and it’s safe to say their diet has a lot to do with that. The Nordic diet (also practiced in Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway) is similar to the Meditteranean diet, but adapted for cooler temperatures. It’s rich in fatty fish, root vegetables, rapeseed oil and seasonal fruit like bilberries. Studies show that this way of eating can support weight loss and lower levels of LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.