We all know the value of a healthy diet in our health and well-being. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide us with the vitamins and minerals we need to protect our immune systems against disease. Meat, poultry, and fish are high in protein, which helps build muscle and can boost metabolism. Whole grains and legumes are rich not only in vitamins and minerals, but also in fiber, which plays an important role in digestive health. In most countries, the diet, to a greater or lesser extent, is made up of combinations of the above, while the geographical location of the country and its climatic characteristics affect the diet of its inhabitants.
How where we live affects our diet
If we go back in history, we will confirm that our ancestors survived on the foods that grew naturally where they lived. Rice, for example, first entered the diet of people living in Asia and Africa, where the native species grew. The diet of coastal inhabitants around the world was based on fish and shellfish, foods with good quality protein, vitamins and minerals. Fruits like mango and pineapple, packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, are grown and enjoyed in areas of the world with warm climates.
One study in particular, conducted by Ancel Keys, a Minnesota physiologist, was the first to delve into how where we live can affect our health when viewed through the lens of dietary choices. The research looked at the diets of thousands of people in Europe, the United States and Japan to see how what they ate affected their health.
In addition to finding that “cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and smoking are universal risk factors for coronary heart disease,” the research also highlighted a key finding that has since become something of a cornerstone in culture. Diet: The Mediterranean diet trumps all others when it comes to healthy eating.
Mediterranean cuisine is considered superior in terms of its positive effect on health, as supported by research known as The Seven Countries Study. sevencountriesstudy.com Based on vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fish, legumes and dairy products, and to a lesser extent red meat, it is still believed that the basic foods of the Mediterranean diet protect the body from diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, but also against obesity.
Research from Harvard University underscores this theory, reporting that “those who followed this type of diet had a 25% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease over 12 years.” The researchers also add that “those with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet had a 24% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 23% lower risk of premature death compared with those with the lowest adherence.”
Countries that are considered to follow a Mediterranean diet mainly include Greece, Spain, and Italy.
In recent years, however, Scandinavian cuisine has become the main rival to the Mediterranean, albeit with more limited variety due to the cold climate. Rye bread, locally sourced fruits and vegetables, and fresh oily fish are staples in the diet of countries like Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark. The Nordic countries also tend to eat in season, which goes hand in hand with their local produce.
This habit gives their diet a comparative advantage in terms of food quality characteristics, since fresh produce transported from abroad is often frozen and preservatives are used, so that when it arrives at its destination it “looks” fresh. . In addition, they are harvested before they reach full maturity, so they are deficient in vitamins and other components.
The “French paradox,” with the relatively low rates of heart disease in a country whose traditional diet is high in fat (think cheese and butter) and wine, puzzled doctors and nutritionists, until 1991, when Serge Renaud, a scientist at the University of Bordeaux, decided to investigate it scientifically. Where did the investigation end? In France, it is about the “perfect portion”. While the French love cheese, bread, croissants and charcuterie, all foods high in saturated fat, the general conclusion is that they tend to eat them in moderation.
Will Clower, CEO of Mediterranean Wellness LLC, also presented research on how the French keep obesity and heart disease rates low. One point Clower makes focuses on the quality of food consumed, as 80 per cent of French fat intake comes from dairy products and whole vegetables, a significantly healthier option than the fingerling culture in some countries. .
Enjoying food, choosing quality over quantity, sticking to three meals a day without snacks, with an emphasis on variety, are important practices in the French diet.
Is there a healthier cuisine in the countries of Europe?
Probably not, since with this quick record of research we can come to the conclusion that the measure on the one hand and the quality of the food we choose are key elements for a diet that is as healthy as possible. Finally, the locality of products, a trend directly related to food miles and the principles of veganism, also plays an important role in the quality and nutritional value of our diet.