Traveling is not only sightseeing historical monuments or natural corners of the world. Above all, it’s culture created by the people. And its essential part is food. While on the move, sometimes I get the impression that no matter the place, food is always in the spotlight. I’m not thinking about providing our body with vital nutrients but about celebrating, spending time together, enjoying every moment and following traditions. All of this gives us the sense of safety and belonging. It is truly amazing to see it with your own eyes but even more amazing is to learn what a certain culture gives you and implement its wisdom into life. There isn’t one perfect recipe for life, however there are some common and universal components. Although our bodies and organisms differ, we can significantly improve our diet by making slight changes. It’s worth exploring a variety of attitudes and methods. Not only in terms of food, but also when it comes to harmony, relaxation, relationships and more satisfying life rich in pleasures.
Have a look at healthy habits from cultures around the world:
Indian cuisine is famous for its aromas and spices. After having a spicy meal you are fuller. The more spices you add, the less salt you need, since the flavor is already rich and pungent. In India popular are red pepper, ginger and curcuma, they lower cholesterol level. Onion and garlic decrease the amount of lipids in blood, preventing heart diseases.
Another way stemming from Ayurveda, ancient healing tradition originating in India, is adding every flavor to one meal so as to induce balance and prevent snacking in the meantime. Hence, every dish needs to be a little sweet, sour, salty, pungent. The trick to limit the urge for eating sweet is adding sweet ingredients to regular meals, e.g. including a sweet potato or a peach into a salad, or a handful of raisins into a meat dish and preparing a sauce based on a mango.
It’s also a good idea to cook with healthy, non-hydrogenated fat, as Hindi do. Frying on a small amount of ghi – clarified butter, or replacing a cream with a coconut milk, it’s not only healthier but also gives your meals an exotic aroma.
The way of serving meals, small portions, blaze of colors and structures while emphasizing overwhelming amount of vegetables make Japan cuisine one of the healthiest in the world.
Visual aspect of food is as important as its taste. Beautiful food exposition is a key factor for the Japanese.
Bright colors are also of the great importance, especially in the shape of vegetables. Japanese people insist on green leafy vegetables and root vegetables such as sweet potatoes. In traditional Japanese cuisine almost every snack and meal consists of pickled or steamed vegetables. Thanks to this, Japanese meals carry much less sugar.
It is an ingenious way to incorporate healthy habits into our diet. Adding some vegetables to every meal (even less healthy) teaches a healthy routine in eating well-balanced meals.
Washoku, Japanese rule of 5 colors, 5 tastes and 5 cooking styles focuses on giving meals a flavor, appropriate structure and beautiful look, in order to influence all human senses and get rid of snacking temptation. It is connected to Kensha rule that focuses on gratitude to nature for its gifts and the way we should fully exploit natural components. You should never reject anything the nature gives you, including leaves, roots, skin, preventing food waste. Japanese diet has abundance of fish and seafood, their meat is not only rich in protein, there is very little cholesterol and lots of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
Eating with chopsticks! Chopsticks are a standard in majority of Asian kitchens and using them is a great way to slow down consuming a meal, swallow smaller bites and taking your time to eat a meal. Research show that people who consume very fast are more prone to obesity and heart diseases.
Chinese eat very regularly and focus on a rich breakfast, nutritious lunch and light supper. They also have a healthy habit of eating soups, mainly stocks consisting of various vegetables, especially leafy ones. Soups are served along with a meal or after it. In the first case it decreases the need of cold drinks during a meal, in the latter it gives you full stomach and saves from the second helping. Customarily, after a finished meal the Chinese drink a glass of hot water to facilitate digestion. They are very attentive about a stroll after a meal since it stimulates digestion.
Ethiopian cuisine is abundant in vegan and vegetarian dishes. If you don’t eat or avoid eating meat, it’s a perfect example of plant-based yet well-balanced diet. The cuisine accentuates root vegetables, for example carrot, celery, parsley and beet. Specific feature of Ethiopian cuisine is teff, a basis of Injera bread. The grain is rich in nutrients, fiber, protein and vitamin C. It can also serve as rice substitute. Moreover, Ethiopian cuisine is poor in lactose ingredients, hence it’s on point for food allergy sufferers who cannot consume dairy products. It is a vivid example of healthy and nutritious cooking without processed food.
GREECE AND ITALY (Mediterranean cuisine)
First of all, they love eating! This kind of attitude is significant in building healthy attitude towards consuming meals and in creating well-balanced life. Food is supposed to be pleasure, not compulsive calories and fats counting or limiting carbs what results in harmful fixation on food intake and has detrimental consequences for our body.
Mediterranean diet is believed to be one of the best-balanced in the world, its advantage implies plentitude of plant products (fruit, vegetables, grains) and adoration for fish awash with Omega-3 fatty acids. Moreover, people cook mainly at homes with natural, fresh and unprocessed ingredients. A meal is a ritual and time for the closest ones. Eating in a hurry doesn’t take place here. And because of that it’s really worth incorporating into everyday life.
An inseparable element of a meal is vine, known for its beneficial influence on life longevity and lowering heart disease risk. But bear in mind to drink it during a meal. When it’s drunk separately, it can increase the risk of circulatory system diseases.
MEXICO AND LATIN AMERICA COUNTRIES
Latin American cuisine is associated with spices. And they obviously play an essential part in Mexican or Venezuelan cooking. Especially when it comes to pungent spices like a chili pepper. Mexican cuisine can be very spicy and using a variety of peppers is common here. It has a positive influence on health. Firstly, it facilitates digestion and burning calories, secondly it disinfects organism from germs and bacteria. Prepared meals carry a scent of sweetness in themselves and, as we know, it prevents snacking sweets between main meals.
What’s worth trying as well, is applying plenty of legumes, a source of plant protein important for vegetarians and for those, who would like to limit meat intake. And avocado, of course! Rich in precious unsaturated fatty acids, mineral salts and vitamins (e.g. vitamin E) is an outstanding ingredient of well-balanced diet and you definitely should have it in your menu.
Mexicans consume their most hearty meal during the day and it’s called almuerzo. According to recent research, in the evening organism shows less sensitivity to insulin, so eating late fosters gaining weight and suffering from noninsulin-dependent diabetes. It’s worth to preserve an early dinner in a daily routine and give our organism a while to digest it better. It also prevents from night binge eating.
It’s vital to dine with your family. Families in Mexico and Latin America prepare meals and eat them together, eating always carries the sense of community.
Eating in France is indispensable culture component and it associates with pleasure, not diet obsession. Since early childhood, children are taught proper eating, combining various ingredients with each other and, what’s even more important, consuming dishes classily and with moderation. Lunch is rather hearty and there’s no habit of snacking between meals.
Research shows that among French diet restrictions aren’t popular. Despite that fact, they have lower obesity and heart diseases rate than citizens of many other countries. Their secret is no-brainer and easy to incorporate. It’s the portion size. Food needs to inspire like pure poetry, not just fill the stomach up. Portions are small but they contain any food you want. A dessert? Of course, as long as it’s only a few bites for pleasure, not a whole cake swallowed up at once. The success consists in moderation and striking a happy medium.
French focus on HOW to eat (the ceremony of serving the food, enjoying the moment of having a meal), not on FEASTING on food like it’s the dying meal.
Norwegian cuisine is famous for large amounts of fish consumption, both fresh- and saltwater. Meat is served occasionally. Norwegian breakfast are usually light and include wholegrain products such as bread and muesli. White-flour bread is not popular, however shops have a wide range of wholegrain thin crispy bread, much less fattening than traditional pastry. The way of preparing meals isn’t of no importance. Norwegians steam both fish and vegetables what makes meals light and dietetic.
Physical activity is something obvious and Norwegians are known for spending lots of time in the nature, cycling, going for long walks or hiking in the mountains (check out my other post about How to spend an active day in Oslo area).
In Norway there is also an array of restrictions related to food production. New products are launched on the market once a year and they are thoroughly selected. The government blocks the flow of unhealthy, full of chemicals and preservatives food.
Norwegians, similarly to other Scandinavians, preserve life balance and pleasurable spending time. No one works after hours and everyone have time for reading, hanging out with friends and enjoying little pleasures.
Let me know if there are habits worth implementing in your culture? Spread your knowledge in comments, so all of us can take advantage of it. And don’t forget to share this article with every food lover searching for a healthy balance :)