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World's Healthiest Cuisines
Dieting is usually viewed as a temporary process that one endures in order to shed a few pounds before the summer, shape up for a big event or lose a beer belly that may have sprung up after an indulgent vacation. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans today are constantly battling with food and searching for the next best thing in the world of weight loss.
If you walk into a shopping center, watch television, read the newspaper or even listen to the radio, it is impossible to avoid seeing advertisements for a new diet plan, pill, book, DVD or health club. The U.S. is packed with fitness and health clubs and our grocery stores are filled with more low-fat, low-carb, sugar-free, and salt-free products than any other country in the world. So why are the majority of Americans overweight and unhealthy while the rest of the world is not?
Consisting largely of soda, candy, fried food, and meat, the American diet ranks low in nutrients and high in fat and processed ingredients. Processed foods contain higher levels of saturated fat, sugar and salt than unprocessed foods, and have been directly linked to increasing obesity rates. Additionally, Americans eat larger portions and exercise less than any other country in the world. Needless to say, America could stand a diet and lifestyle lesson from several other countries and regions that live healthier, fitter lives without trying half as hard.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean region is comprised of several countries in Southern Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East that border the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mediterranean diet consists of seasonally fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, free-range chicken, fish, and olive oil.
Understanding the diet and lifestyle
The recent popularity of all things "low carb" has sparked a backlash against potatoes, bread, pasta, and fruit, especially in the United States. The fear that Dr. Atkins and others instilled in those who want to lose a few pounds has turned people against the very foods that most cultures view as healthy staples. For centuries, people along the coastal regions of the Mediterranean have enjoyed longer life expectancies and lower rates of heart disease and cholesterol than Americans. Many experts believe that this is thanks to their diet. So does that mean you can indulge in a huge plate of creamy pasta? Uh, no...
Diet secrets from the French
It's challenging to find an overweight person in France. Conversely, it's hard to walk down a street in France without quickly running into a bakery, chocolate shop or wine store. Still, the French are considered one of the healthiest populations in the world in terms of overall disease rates and obesity statistics.
The typical French diet includes butter, wine, full-fat cheese, bread, red meat, and of course, dessert. The French live on cream and butter sauces, regularly indulge on steak and pommes frites, and never miss the opportunity to share a mid-morning chocolate croissant and caf au lait with a friend. This so-called "French Paradox" has puzzled nutritionists for years. So how the heck do French people stay so slim?
Although it's difficult to locate a gym in France (and even more challenging to find a French person who goes to one), people manage to stay slim by incorporating physical activity into their everyday lives, usually via walking or bicycling.
Eating like the Europeans
To improve your overall health based on the Mediterranean and French diets, try the following:
- Go meatless for a week
- Add nuts to your morning cereal
- Incorporate fish into your diet at least twice a week
- Replace margarine and butter with olive oil
- Eat fresh fruit for dessert
- Omit processed foods
- Purchase free-range poultry and pork
- Be aware of portion sizes; in most cases, you could probably cut the amount of food you eat in half
Following diet tips from the Mediterranean region and France is easy—after all, there are no ratios between carbohydrates and protein, no foods are forbidden, and you can drink wine. Bon appetite!