Healthy Food Secrets from Around the World

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Many people believe that a long life means a healthy life but life expectancy doesn't always equal "health expectancy” which entails avoidance of the chronic diseases. Some countries get to the top of life expectancy through medical intervention and life extension. Nutritionist Theresa Albert stopped by to share some healthy food secrets and habits from around the world that have kept people living longer and healthier lives.

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Hungary: Pickled Foods

Healthy Food from Hungary: Pickled Foods

In Hungary, they are pickle crazy! Everything gets pickled, not just cucumber.

Why does this work?

There is evidence that acetic acid helps control blood pressure and blood sugar.  Vinegar actually does help to neutralize the PH level of your body which keeps inflammation low.  In addition, fermented foods like sauerkraut are a best kept secret! They help feed the good bacteria in the gut and keep digestion running smoothly.

What do we need to keep in mind?

These foods can be very high in salt and even sugar so watch that you don't go overboard.

Any dangers associated with this trend?

Olives are in this category but are higher in fat, only a few per day of these or you could be consuming too many calories.

Greece: Fasting

Healthy Food Secrets from Greece

The Greek Orthodox faith observes several fasts during the year, which means abstinence from foods derived from animals containing red blood, dairy products, and at times from olive oil, and wine as well.

Why does this work?

Occasional abstinence from meat, dairy and oil will reduce calories as a matter of course. Wine alone can add hundreds of calories per day.  This is a better idea than going to a complete fast where you don’t eat any food which can cause blood sugar levels to go wild.

What do we need to keep in mind?

Theresa doesn’t recommend full on fasts and "cleanses" because they can be very dangerous. Instead, do it the way the Greeks do or go for an "all vegetable day". 

Mexico: Make the Midday Meal the Biggest

Healthy Food Secrets from Mexico

Because of poverty, the life expectancy rate in Mexico is lower but those who do make it, live long and healthy lives.  One of the reasons is that they make the mid-day meal the biggest.

Why does this work?

The jury is out on whether eating late at night makes you gain weight, we burn calories based on our metabolism, not our activity level after a meal.  However, there is evidence that eating larger late interferes with sleep.  If the body can't reboot because it is working on digestion, energy the next day is compromised. That means you may not exercise or be as active which can create a vicious cycle.

What do we need to keep in mind?

This isn't a pass to eat as much as you want of bad stuff at lunch! Still make sure you’re making healthy choices. If you have blood sugar issues and don't eat enough in the hours leading up to sleep, you can have a blood sugar crash overnight which isn't good for you either.  Try to keep it to a modest 300 calories, 3 hours before bed.

Sweden: Two Highly Nourishing Foods

Health Food Secrets from Sweden

Lingonberries and Whole Grain Rye Bread
Why does this work?

Lingonberries rival blueberries in health studies as they are high in omega 3's and phytonutrients. Whole grain rye bread is much lower on the glycemic index than wheat so it is a good grain to add to your diet.

What do we need to keep in mind?

Most of what we call "rye bread" is merely white flour with a hoodwink of rye. Real Rye bread comes in many forms such as baby pumpernickel. When reading the ingredients, you should find Rye first and preferably no wheat. Lingonberries coming in the form of jam contain sugar, still a good option but limit  your intake.

Costa Rica: Rice and Beans as a Staple Food

Heathy Food from Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, as will many South American Countries, obesity rates are traditionally low when they stick with their traditional diets.  They rely heavily on beans and rice and as a result have low cardiovascular disease rates

Why does this work?

This works because it is a complete vegetarian protein that is high in fibre. It pairs with any little bits of meat or fish and vegetables. It also jives with what we know of the "Mediterranean Diet" that comes up on top of just about every diet study.  ½ cup of beans per day has also been shown to reduce peripheral artery disease (a marker of heart health) adding this into your diet is good and replacing animal protein with it is even better!

What do we need to keep in mind?

The only danger is portion size, you can eat too much of anything and then go over in calories. Obviously, drowning it in cheese or oil is an issue too.

 

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