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Healthiest diets from around the world

BY: Arku Jasmine

In nations with low obesity rates, women know how to eat right and enjoy every bite. "The diets they follow often place emphasis on whole grains and legumes and use meat sparingly," says Daphne Miller, MD, the author of The Jungle Effect.
 
France
: Despite baguettes and Brie, French women have the lowest average body mass index in Europe. "It's true that the French eat for pleasure, but they enjoy cream, cheese, and wine in moderation," says Mary Brighton, RD, a health and food blogger who lives in Pau, France.
 
Slimming Secrets


Eat slowly. Adopt the French habit of eating a three-course meal to savour food and to recognise satiety cues.
Start with salad and this will make you feel full a few bites into your second course, rounding up your meal with an apple. Something else that worked: listening to music and making meals last for five or six songs. That's about 20 minutes, or the amount of time it takes your brain to register that your stomach is full.
 
Make lunch the main event. French breakfasts are small, but lunch is a big deal and might include soup, salad, a chicken entrée with at least one vegetable, and a light dessert, like sorbet, says Steven Jonas, MD, a coauthor of 30 Secrets of the World's Healthiest Cuisines. Supper is lighter and later, usually eaten around 8 or 9. "Because the body uses lunchtime calories for the rest of the day, fewer go into storage and turn into body fat," he explains.


Japan: It's no surprise that the obesity rate in Japan is less than four per cent: The country's traditional diet has long been touted as one of the healthiest in the world. "People who live in the Okinawa region of Japan, specifically, are four to five times more likely than Americans to live to 100," Dr  Miller says.
 
Slimming Secrets


Start with soup. Miso soup is part of most meals, including breakfast. "Broth-based soup can help you feel full longer and regulate your calorie intake for the day," says Rebecca Scritchfield, RD, a nutrition counsellor in Washington, D.C. A study of more than 5,000 people found that women who ate soup five to six times a week were more likely to have healthy body mass index (BMIs) than those who sipped it less frequently. A bowl of miso will make you less hungry during the day. If you can’t go with soup in the morning, start lunch or dinner with a bowl (just steer clear of creamy kinds, which can be high in fat and calories).

Brighten up your plate. There's a proverb in Japan that says, "Not dressing up the meal with colour is like sending someone out of the house without clothes." The Japanese try to incorporate five hues — red, blue-green, yellow, white, and black — into every meal, says Lalita Kaul, PhD, RD, the author of Healthy Heart South Asian Diet.

Adding different shades to your plate means you'll take in more low-calories, high-fiber fruits and veggies. Incorporate a rainbow of produce into your diet,  plums and peaches for a snack, tomatoes and lettuce on turkey sandwiches, berries atop low-fat pudding.
 
The Nordic Region


People in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have long had one of the lowest obesity rates in Europe. Only 13.4 per cent of the Danish population and 10 per cent of Norwegians are obese, and Icelanders have a 50 percent lower death rate from heart disease and diabetes than North Americans, Dr Miller says.
 
Slimming Secrets

Better your bread: In Scandinavia the most beloved loaf is rye. "There are two types of fiber: soluble, found in rye, and insoluble, found in wheat," explains Katherine Tallmadge, RD, the author of Diet Simple. "Both make you feel full, but the soluble kind also lowers cholesterol and glycemic response, causing less glucose in the bloodstream, which means fewer blood sugar spikes and cravings."

Go fish: Danish people consume more than twice as much fish as Americans, says Arne Astrup, MD, PhD, the nutrition department head at the University of Copenhagen. "Seafood is lower in calories and fat than other protein sources," Scritchfield says. And much of the fat in the fish that's popular in Scandinavia, herring, tuna, salmon, mackerel, and cod, is heart-healthy omega-3s.

In an eight-week study, researchers from the University of Iceland found that overweight people who ate three to five servings of cod a week lost more weight than those who scorned seafood. 

Hit the farmers' market. The Nordic diet is full of cold-climate vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts, and mushrooms, the kind of produce that is loaded with flavour and makes a lean meal feel heftier, Dr Astrup says.
 
The Mediterranean

In one study, people who consumed the traditional diet of the Mediterranean (key elements include produce, healthy fats, whole grains, lean protein, and red wine) for 25 weeks lost an average of 8 per cent of their body weight.
 
Slimming Secrets

Get an oil change. Extra virgin olive oil, a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, may help control your appetite. A study from the University of California, Irvine, found that the oleic acid it contains triggers the production of a hunger-curbing compound in the small intestine.

Spice things up: Mediterranean cooks are all about fresh herbs, basil, dill, bay leaf, fennel, and mint and spices. These weight-loss secret weapons pack serious flavour, allowing you to cut back on high-calories ingredients. Buy at least one fresh herb a week and add it to your meals.

Use meat sparingly: Supersized steak dinners are uncommon in the traditional Mediterranean diet; meat plays a supporting role and is used to add flavour. The amount of meat consumed by Americans is a large contributor to excess weight. Meat is probably the most expensive part of the grocery bill.
 
Curtesy: Fitness Magazine

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