From spices to siestas, every culture has their own solutions to staying healthy and managing their weight. To help inspire your healthy living, check out the top 10 global health secrets that could help you stay fit and trim.
Cook with fresh, quality ingredients
Many of us are guilty of turning to pre-prepared, processed foods when we’re in a hurry, but these are often packed with salt, sugar and additives which are damaging to our health. Instead, we should take our lead from countries such as Italy and Japan who rely on fresh, seasonal produce for their healthy cuisines.
Try frequenting local markets to pick up fresh goods, or you could even take inspiration from Russia where it is common for families to grow their own food.
Choose fish over meat
Red meat is a staple of many of our diets, which is perhaps one of the reasons for the high levels of heart disease across the world. For a healthier protein option, take inspiration from the Japanese and Icelandic diets and stock up on seafood. Not only is fish good for heart health, but a study has suggested that the Icelandic diet – high in Omega-3-rich fish – may be responsible for their unexpectedly low rate of seasonal affective disorder, or the “winter blues”.
Don’t cut out food groups
Many of us drift from one food fad to another, cutting out carbs one week and fats the next. However, we should take note of the Mediterranean diet, which is widely renowned to be one of the world’s healthiest diets and which embraces the idea of all things in moderation. Not only does the Mediterranean diet feature carbs, dairy and wine, but one of its particular characteristics is its abundant use of olive oil.
Rather than cutting out food groups entirely, take inspiration from this diet and try to choose healthier options, such as monounsaturated fats, and eat them in moderation.
Enjoy your food
If you’re prone to eating on the run or in front of the TV, take a lesson from European cultures such as France and Italy where food is savoured and enjoyed in a more leisurely fashion. Taking longer meals and focusing on what you are eating – rather than what’s happening on the TV – will help you to enjoy your food more and cut the risk of overeating. As it takes 20 minutes for your body to register the feeling of being full, this will also help you to eat less. Try also eating with others, which will make you more aware of how much – and how quickly – you are eating.
Stop eating before you're completely full
Taking note of when you start to feel full is one of the most important steps to maintaining a healthy weight. Not only will eating more slowly help you to recognise this feeling, but by stopping eating at the very first signs of fullness you can help to avoid overeating and reduce your appetite. The Okinawans – who are reputed to have the world’s longest life expectancy – traditionally adhere to the practise of eating until they are 80 per cent full; a habit known as hara hachi bu.
Ditch the car
While lots of us hit the gym a couple of times a week, research shows that regular daily activity could be more effective than sporadic workouts - and this is an area where many of us are lacking. While we’re not suggesting you ditch your workout entirely, to boost your health and fitness try taking inspiration from the Netherlands, where it is said there are more bikes than people and where cycling is a popular method of transport. Try squeezing in more everyday activity like walking or cycling to the shops or work, or simply taking the stairs rather than using the lift.
Drink with meals
We all know the dangers alcohol poses to our health, but drinking wine (particularly red) actually has health benefits when drunk in moderation. Rather than binge drinking to get drunk, try adopting Mediterranean habits of drinking wine in moderation and with meals, and try to savour each glass. Not only will this help to cut the health risks associated with alcohol (not to mention the calories) but drinking wine can also help to increase good cholesterol and cut heart disease risk.
Eat more spices
Whether you love Indian dishes or are more partial to Mexican cuisine, eating spicy foods could help you lose weight and boost your health. According to a study conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles, turmeric – a spice found in many curries – could help slow Alzheimer’s, which may explain the low instance of the disease among the ageing population of India. Chilli peppers meanwhile can help you lose weight by speeding up your metabolism and making you eat slowly; thereby giving your brain more time to register fullness.
Take a nap
The Spanish have a long-held tradition of taking an afternoon siesta, and many Japanese have also embraced the idea of power naps to get them through long working days. So, are we missing out by powering through? According to abundant research, the answer could be yes. Sleep can help you live longer, increase weight loss, boost memory and reduce stress. A six-year Greek study has also discovered that those who took a half hour nap at least three times a week had 37% less risk of dying of heart disease, proving that this may well be a health trend we should take note of.
Have some family time
Research findings published in the journal Plos Medicine have indicated that having strong ties to family and friends can help you live longer, which may be one reason for the renowned good health of Italians, who are known for their close-knit families. A survey of people in 11 different countries – including the US, UK and Australia – also revealed that Brazilians spent the most time with their families (an average of 74 hours per week) and had one of the lowest stress levels. So, take a leaf out of their book and schedule in some family time to give your health a boost.
(Realbuzz.com, October, 2012)
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