8 Healthiest Cuisines in the World
There’s so much mis-information on healthy eating, dieting and the need to combat the growing epidemic of obesity. Heck you even have some cities taxing big gulps. Well government intervention sure isn’t likely to solve this issue and only personal responsibility will. If you want to be fat, you’re going to be fat.It’s easy to get lost in the jargon of the medical experts… a person weighing 180 lbs should consume 65 grams of protein, 45% of your calories should come from carbohydrates…. blah, blah, blah. You don’t need to be a certified nutritionist to understand that this is costing each of us thousands of dollars a year in increased health costs.
According to a recent study by the United Nations the average adult (this study looked at both males and females in the entire world) weighs 137 lbs. and the average American tips the scales at just over 180 lbs. Looking at it another way – America accounts for only 5% of the world's total population, yet we account for almost 33% of the world’s total weight (oh yeah we’re way above average here – we’d be better off if we were #1 in math and science), while Asia with 61% of the world’s people contributes only 13% of the world’s total weight. Ok we get it – we’re supersized.
Sure I could go into great detail about calories in, calories out or about the substantial destructive role of US food manufactures feeding our addiction of refined sugars and grains. Gosh maybe they’re going to try to tax those next.
But since we’re a spice company we believe that there’s a different way to think about this. You should eat. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice flavor. But we should at least see if we can learn what others from around the world have long known about eating healthier. These are widely believed to be the 8 healthiest cuisines in the world. You want to get as close to authentic on these as you can and avoid the “Americanized version”.
This is not the cheese covered Tex-Mex versions the you'll find at most Mexican restaurants (especially chain restaurants). The staples of the Mexican diet include beans, chiles, corn, soups and tomatoes. This cuisine is rich in slow released carbohydrates which leave you feeling fuller longer and may help lower blood sugar and reverse diabetes. With its traditional use of various chiles, corn, robust moles and salsas these dishes also provide multiple layers of flavor complexities.
Spicy grilled chicken or beef dishes make great choices and Mexican cuisine also has numerous vegetarian options. Mexican cuisine is one of the original fusion cuisines and is heavily influenced by the Spanish, French and Chinese. Mexican flavors vary by region – in the north, called el Norte, the food is influenced by the Germans and North American cowboys. In the Yucatan region, the food is more traditional and draws from its Mayan roots with some fusion influence from Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and Florida. In the Vera Cruz region you’ll find Creole and Spanish influences.
Don’t Americanize - skip the cheese dishes.
Some of our favorite Mexican seasonings include Manzanillo Mexican Seasoning, Mexican Chorizo Seasoning, Pollo Asado, Mexican Mole Seasoning and Yucatan Recado Rojo. We also love Mexican Oregano and chile peppers and powders. They can be used in many dishes including our Chorizo and Black Bean Breakfast Burrito, Spicy Grilled Mexican Shrimp, Chicken Enchilada Soup, Arroz con Pollo and Mexican Style Chicken Chili.
Spanish food is not Mexican cuisine. Recipes from this Mediterranean region originate from the Iberian Peninsula. While Spanish recipes have influenced Caribbean, Latin American and Mexican cuisine it is really a distinct cuisine in its own right.
Like most Mediterranean region foods, the Spanish have a storied reputation for consuming loads of fresh vegetables, seafood and olive oil. Two of their better known dishes here in the US are paella and gazpacho. The Spanish can also teach us more about healthier eating if you embrace Tapas. Tapas are considered appetizers and the Spanish have made the use and combination of various Tapas into a sophisticated and satisfying meal. Serving meals in this manner encourages more conversation and less focus on consuming larger portions of food.
Watch out for the American version which likes to lean toward fried foods and fatty sausages.
Some of our favorite Spanish seasoning blends are Paella Seasoning and Mojo Seasoning. Saffron and Smoked Paprika hot are also commonly used in traditional Spanish cuisine. Some of our favorite recipes include Spanish Salsa, Spanish Saffron Chicken, Smoked Paprika Chicken, Valencian Paella and Vegetable Paella.
Another of the Mediterranean region cuisines, traditional Italian food features lots of beans, fish, fruits, grains, olive oil and vegetables. The ingredients used are almost always incredibly fresh and they shy away from processed meat and other food products. Instead of meat being a primary focus of the meal it’s actually used sparingly and the main source of protein comes from beans and fish.
Contrary to our Americanized pre-conceived notion of Italian staples, melted cheese is not found in traditional foods from Italy. Instead, the Italians use cheese as a flavor enhancer where hard cheese such as fresh Parmesan is preferred.
Skip the heavy cheese dominated American version dishes like lasagna and double cheese pizzas.
Italian seasonings are delicious and can be added to almost any dish to give it some extra flavor. Our favorite Italian seasoning blends include our traditional Italian Seasoning, Hot Italian Sausage Seasoning, Tuscany Bread Dipping Seasoning, Spaghetti Seasoning, and Pizza Seasoning. Some of our favorite Italian recipes are our Italian Eggplant Rollup, Italian Wedding Soup, Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna, Baked Ziti and Caprese Salad.
Most American’s experience with Indian food is not an accurate reflection of the food consumed by those living in this region which tends to be fresher, lighter and more balanced than that found at US Indian restaurants. Good Indian cooks prefer preparing dishes from scratch using fresh produce and ingredients and not relying on pre-packaged, pre-prepared foods that are loaded with preservatives and refined ingredients. The result is dishes that are prepared with minimal oil and using healthy cooking methods.
Indian cuisine makes extensive use of spices, and not just to make the food fiery hot (although some dishes are). Spices are used to flavor the food, creating wonderfully aromatic balance and flavor. While each spice is unique, the art of mastering how to magically blend them seems to have been perfected by the best Indian cooks.
Look for recipes calling for beef or chicken tikka or tandoori and lean toward using a healthier, lighter oil or light margarine instead of butter or ghee. Search for curries with a dal or vegetable base.
Skip anything fried or heavy curries made with lots of butter, cream or ghee.
You can make flavorful curries with lots of flavor, without so much fat using one of our Indian seasoning blends which include our top selling Maharajah Style Curry Powder, Madras Curry Powder, Sweet Curry Powder or Tandoori Spice. Some of our favorite healthy Indian recipes are Chicken Tikka Masala, Vegetable Jalfrezi, Sauteed Beef with Spinach Curry Sauce, Rajma and Quick and Easy Vegetable Curry.
Japanese men and women have some of the longest life expectancies on Earth. Men can expect to live to 79 and women 86 (compared to 75 and 80 for Americans). The Japanese also have the lowest obesity rate in the developed world at only 3% (the US comes in at a whopping 32%). This is strictly due to diet differences; as when the Japanese switch to a Western-style diet they pack on the pounds quickly.
The Japanese secret? An almost perfect balance of low calorie foods that are both delicious and filling. Instead of meals being served on a single plate they’re served in small bowls and plates. Like with Spanish cuisine, this drastically slows down the eating process. The Japanese also practice calorie control called “Hara Hachi Bu” which loosely translates to “eat until 80% full”. These subtle changes have the average Japanese consuming roughly 25% fewer calories per day than the average American.
The Japanese diet includes huge amounts of rice (6 times more than the typical American diet). They’re also crazy about mixed vegetables. Preferring their vegetables simmered in a seasoned broth, some of the more popular vegetables include bamboo shoots, beets, burdock, carrots, eggplant, green beans, green peppers, lettuce, lotus root, onions, red bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, zucchini,i shiitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and sea vegetables (a.k.a. seaweed) like kombu, nori, and wakame.
Protein tends to come from fish. The Japanese, with only 2% of the world’s population, consume 10% of the fish eaten. They prefer fatty fishes like fresh mackerel, salmon and tuna.
A naturally healthy cuisine, the Vietnamese are known for using lots of seafood and vegetables and their cooking techniques make greater use of broth or water instead of calorie laden oils. Meals prepared in the traditional manner rely less on frying and heavy sauces which makes them less calories dense but still very flavorful and filling.
Throughout much of Asia the various cuisines use lots of spices and herbs, while Vietnamese prepared dishes don’t make use of as many different flavors, but the result is larger flavors. The Vietnamese look at herbs and spices not as mere flavor enhancers but as the star of the meal. Herbs are usually served in large chunks so that when you bite into them you get flavor explosions.
Round rice noodles, known as banh pho and rice play key roles in Vietnamese cuisine as they provide a delightful balance to the use of herbs. The national dish is the flavorful pho, a broth made with rice noodles and greens, such as basil and bean sprouts. Beef broth is called Pho bo, while chicken broth is known as Pho ga. Because meat is used more as a side dish (typically only about 2 oz per meal) than a main course, most of these foods tend to be lower in total calories.
California cuisine is a healthy style of cuisine that has its foundation firmly rooted on the exploding fusion cuisine that integrates seasonings and cooking techniques from different cooking traditions. Many food aficionados have long believed that California has shaped much of the US’s culinary culture. But you don’t need to live on the left coast to get the most of this type of cuisine, as the base is all about preparing local, seasonal foods that are prepared simply.
While many mistakenly believe that California cuisine is all about innovation, it actually draws from its Mediterranean roots which are closely tied to the early immigrants that migrated from Italy and Spain. Italian settlers planted various grape varieties from their homeland and introduced breads, pastas and homemade vegetable sauces. Spanish missionaries planted and cultivated the regions first olive tree orchards which are now a key ingredient in various dishes ranging from grilled pizza to risottos and sandwiches. Cooking with heart healthy oils such as olive oil is the norm, while the usage of animal fats such as butter or lard is rare at best.
Some popular dishes from California cuisine include California pizza, which can accommodate toppings such as eggs, avocado and and vegetables. Chopped salads are also very popular and are typically topped with a variety of healthy choices including fruit, nuts and avocado. Fish tacos are becoming more popular around the United States, and can be credited to the left coast.
Like most of the world’s healthier cuisines skip the calorie and fat laden versions that rely on high sodium and high fat cheese.
Some of our favorite California inspired recipes are Grilled Salmon Tacos with a Fiery Chile Pesto, Chicken Broccoli Pesto Pizza, Caramelized Onion and Black Olive Pizza, Arugula Walnut Salad and Southwester Tilapia Tacos.
There is a reason heart docs love the Mediterranean diet – it’s good for you! This healthy eating plan has it all including the best mix of local ingredients, portion sizes and types of food to consume. And don’t think that the “Mediterranean” means just Greece, as France, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Spain, Syria and Turkey have all added their own customizations to leverage their unique cultural preferences and available local foods.
Their commonalities include a heavy reliance on plant foods such as beans, fruits, nuts, olive oil, vegetables, and whole grains along with a limited amount of cheese, chicken, eggs, fish and yogurt. The average Mediterranean consumes 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, enjoys grilled or baked fish and chicken at least several times a week and limits their consumption of red meat to no more than several times a month.
Bread is an important part of the diet, as grains found in the Mediterranean region are usually whole grain and typically contain a limited amount of unhealthy trans fats. Bread is often dipped in olive oil and the use of butter or margarine is rare. Nuts are popular as a quick snack especially almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts and peanut butter (go for natural peanut butter). Salt is not a primary seasoning, instead this region relies on spices and herbs.
While the use of a limited amount of dairy products is common, watch the American versions that gravitate towards the high fat range with dairy products made with whole or 2 percent milk.
Some of our favorite Mediterranean spices and seasonings are Greek Seasoning, Mediterranean Dry Rub, Herbs de Provence, Turkish Kofte and Mediterranean Oregano. Some Mediterranean dishes that we love are Mediterranean Pitas, Low Sodium Mediterranean Salmon, Spiced Lentils, Greek Burger and Za'atar Carrots, Greek Salad with Za'atar Vinaigrette and Kalamata Olive Pizza.