What is the healthiest diet on the planet?

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What is the Healthiest Diet on the Planet?

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Nowadays, there are so many different diets and it seems that there’s no end to them. It looks like a new diet pop ups on the internet every other day or so.

And of course there will be doctors, nutritionists and dieticians who will claim this new diet is the healthiest, the best, or [insert random claim here].

But I decided to do my own research and find out which diet is actually the healthiest. In order to establish that we need to ask one simple question – which country is the least obese?

It’s no secret that obesity is the leading cause of various health complications such as: coronary heart disease (CHD), high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, abnormal blood fats, metabolic syndrome, cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS), reproductive problems and gallstones. [1]

So if a developed country has a low obesity rate it means that their diet is sustainable by a whole country and that’s something worth looking into to.

The most recent data I was able to dig up was from 2014, but I am pretty confident that obesity trends are relevant in 2016, and will be relevant for years to come, until new data shows otherwise.

You will not find undeveloped, or developing countries in this list, because such countries generally have low obesity rates due to limited food availability.

In addition, these countries most likely have not been touched by the hands of greedy giant food corporations, which spread junk food all over the world for profit at the cost of human health.

So here’s a list of 10 countries with the lowest obesity rates worldwide.

10. Belgium

Belgium is number 10 on my list of the least obese countries in the world with a 13.8 percent obesity rate among adults. That’s surprising considering the fact that Belgium is well-known for it’s high quality chocolate, waffles and French fries.

Potatoes, asparagus, meat, cheese and butter are considered to be the staple foods like in the majority of Europe. Belgians usually eat three meals per day, light breakfast, light, or medium-sized lunch and large dinner.

Here’s an example of a traditional Belgian meal Carbonade flamande. It’s a sweet-sour beef and onion stew made with beer, seasoned with thyme, bay leaves and mustard. Served with some French fries and some salad on the side.

Belgian Carbonade flamande - traditional Belgian meal
By Jiel Beaumadier via Wikimedia Commons

9. Denmark

At number 9 we have Denmark with 13.4 percent of obese adults. Rye bread, pork, potatoes, fish and dairy are considered to be staples in the Danish cuisine.

Open sandwiches, or smørrebrød (butter and bread) are considered to be a Danish specialty. Generally, they consist of buttered rye bread with various topics such as various cold spreads, cheese, fish or meat.

Danes typically have three meals per day, which consist of a cold breakfast with coffee or tea, a cold lunch and a hot dinner, which is eaten at home with the family. Some snacking can occur in the middle of the afternoon or late in the evening.

Hot meals are prepared using ground meats for the most part. Pork meat is the most common ingredients in hot meals, which is served with potatoes and other vegetables like carrots.

An example of a Danish lunch: fishcake, prawns, mackerel and rye bread.

Danish lunch - fishcake, smoked mackerel and prawns with dark rye bread
By Orfeus via Wikimedia Commons

8. Austria

Austria comes at number 8 with 12.4 percent of obese adults. Generally, Austrians eat three meals per day with snacking during meals. Breakfasts are usually light, followed by a large lunch and a light dinner.

Bread, cabbage, meat and potatoes are considered to be staples in Austria. Sausages are a popular snack among Austrians.

You’ve probably heard the word “Weiner” that’s because it comes from “Weiner Würstel”, which simply means “Vienna Sausage”.

Here’s an example of a traditional Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel, which is a very thin, breaded and pan fried cutlet made from veal. Pork is usually used as a cheaper alternative to veal.

Wiener Schnitzel - a national Austrian dish made from veal, or pork.
By Kobako via Wikimedia Commons

7. Netherlands

With 12 percent of obese adults the Netherlands are at number 7. The Dutch cuisine is pretty simple and straightforward. The Dutch eat little meat and a lot of vegetables.

Traditionally the Dutch diet is high in carbohydrates and fat. Another interesting fact about the Dutch is that they are heavy coffee drinkers compared to the rest of the world with an average yearly consumption of 1,145 cups per capita. [2]

The Dutch typically eat three meals during the day, one of which is a hot meal. Both breakfast and lunch typically consist of bread with a variety of cold cuts, cheeses and various sweet toppings (apple butter, peanut butter, chocolate spread).

A traditional Dutch dinner is extremely simple and usually consists of potatoes, a small portion of meat with gravy and a large portion of vegetables.

A simple traditional Dutch meal, potatoes, sausage with gravy and vegetables
By Takeaway via Wikimedia Commons

6. Sweden

Sweden beats the Netherlands by a measly 0.2 percent with an obesity rate among adults of only 11.8 percent. Like pretty much all the countries mentioned above Swedish cuisine is not complicated.

Swedes generally eat three meals per day consisting of breakfast, light lunch and a heavy dinner. It’s quite common to have snacks between meals, usually a sandwich, or a fruit.

For breakfast Swedes like to eat buttered open sandwiches with various toppings such as cheese, cold cuts, caviar, ham, tomatoes or cucumber.

Here’s an example of a traditional Swedish meal consisting of mashed potatoes, Swedish meatballs, cream sauce, pickled gherkin (cucumber variety) and lingonberry jam (very similar to cranberry jam).

Another thing to note is that Swedes are even heavier coffee drinkers than the Dutch, consuming 1,211 cups of coffee every year.

A simple Swedish meal consisting of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, pickles and lingonberry jam.
By Steffen Wurzel via Wikimedia Commons

5. Italy

Italians are at number 5 with an average adult obesity rate of just 10.4 percent. Just like most of Europe Italians prefer to eat three meals per day with some snacking in-between.

Breakfast, usually consists of coffee with bread, butter and jam. Lunch is considered to be the most important meal of the day in Italy and typically consists of two courses. Rice or pasta is served as the first course, meat, fish ,vegetables or fruit are served as the second course.

Dinner is usually a light meal consisting of either leftovers, salads or soups.

What’s also interesting about the Italian cuisine is that most dishes have only 4 to 8 ingredients, which makes cooking meals at home a breeze.

Here’s a very popular dish you’ve probably already know – Spaghetti alla carbonara. Tastes amazing, very filling and incredibly easy to make.

Traditional Italian meal - spaghetti alla carbonara
By Mattes Boch via Wikimedia Commons

4. Switzerland

Right after Italy we have Switzerland with almost identical obesity rate of 10.3 percent.

Generally, Swiss people will have three meals per day, however, meal sizes will vary from region to region. For example, Swiss Germans typically have a large breakfast, while Swiss Romande (mix of French and Italians) prefer to have coffee with a croissant, or an open sandwich.

A very popular breakfast in Switzerland is Muesli, which are basically rolled raw oats with dried fruits, nuts and seeds typically served with milk. Basically, it’s a much healthier option than the American cereal.

Swiss cuisine is heavily influenced by nearby countries and includes already familiar ingredients such as potatoes, meat and cheese. A good example of a traditional Swiss meal – Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (sliced meat Zurich style) served with Rösti (hash browns).

Sliced meat Zurich style, served with rösti - traditional Swiss meal.
By Jpatokal via Wikimedia Commons

3. Norway

Norway leads in Europe with the least obese population with average obesity rate among adults at only 10 percent.

Most Norwegians eat three to four meals per day, which are largely based on raw ingredients. Typical Norwegian breakfast consists of a cup of coffee and a few sandwiches. Cereal, muesli and oatmeal are usually also popular with children.

Norway is number 5 at consuming coffee with an average of 916 cups per year. [2]

What’s also interesting about Norwegians is that they pack lunch to work and it’s also a cold one consisting mainly of sandwiches. I assume they understand that it’s better to pack your own lunch rather than grabbing something at a nearby fast food “restaurant”.

Dinner usually includes some type of fish, boiled potatoes and vegetables. An example of a simple Norwegian dish would be Reinsdyrsteik (reindeer roast) with boiled potatoes, vegetables and a sour-sweet jam of lingonberries on the side.

Traditional Norwegian dish, reindeer roast with boiled potatoes and vegetables.
By by tuey via Wikimedia Commons

2. Korea

The leaders in keeping their weight under control are all located in Asia. Even though I didn’t add countries like China and India, Asians are the gurus of low obesity rates.

Korea has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world and the difference between Europe is quite significant. Only 4.6 percent of adults in Korea are obese.

Korean cuisine is based around rice, vegetables and meat. You’ve probably heard about Kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish, which consists of fermented cabbage and other vegetables.

Traditionally Kimchi is served at every meal, while rice is the main dish, which is accompanied with fish, meat and vegetables. Generally, Koreans eat 3 meals per day with frequent snacking between meals.

Even though rice dominates the Korean diet, soups, stewes and noodles are also very common along with legumes. Each meal is served with banchan, which are small side dishes that complement rice.

Here’s an example of a traditional Korean set-meal – Hanjungsik.

Hanjeongsik - traditional Korean set meal.
By http2007 via Wikimedia Commons

1. Japan

The absolute leader of the developed world among the least obese people is Japan. With only 3.6 percent of adults classed as obese they also live the longest in the world with an average life expectancy of 84 years. Are you jealous already?

What’s so special about the Japanese that they are so healthy and thin?

Japanese Diet

Traditional Japanese diet is heavily based on rice, noodles and miso soup. Rice is always served in a separate bowl and is accompanied with several side dishes, which include fish and other seafood, meat (less common), pickled vegetables, or vegetables cooked in broth.

Good to note that traditionally the Japanese diet was heavily relying on rice and vegetables as their main food, poultry came second and meat was consumed in small amounts.

According to some surveys about 95% percent of Japanese eat three meals per day.

What’s interesting is that plain white rice is a staple food and traditionally comes with every single meal.

However, if you start looking online for diet advice plain white rice will be demonized by every single website, article, or YouTuber, because of how “bad” it is.

If white rice was as bad as everyone claims it is, how the hell does it feed half of the world’s population including the thinnest and healthiest people in the world?

Maybe people should stop getting their advice from glamour magazines and do their own research?

Another interesting fact about Japan is that it has the highest egg consumption in the world, according to some data. [3] [4]

I bet every vegan who believes eggs cause cancer and clog arteries died a little inside just now.

But the fact that eggs are not evil is even backed by scientists.

In conclusion, eating eggs more frequently, up to almost daily, was not associated with an increase in CHD incidence for middle-aged Japanese men and women. [5]

Fascinating, isn’t it? The two most demonized staples foods in the Western world are responsible for a low obesity rate and high life expectancy. Meanwhile, according to every “nutritionist” and “health expert”, gluten is the thing you should avoid like the plague.

Another interesting thing about the Japanese cuisine is how much liquid they consume with every meal. As you already know, side dishes may come in a broth along with miso soup.

In addition, the Japanese drink a few cups of green tea with every meal without any sugar whatsoever (putting sugar in tea is considered a big no-no in Japan).

Here’s a an example of a Japanese meal teishoku – a main meal with a bowl of rice, miso soup, seafood and vegetables.

Traditional Japanese main meal teishoku
By cyclonebill via Wikimedia Commons

Fat Tax

In addition to a healthy diet the Japanese government implemented a fat tax in 2008, which is designed to lower the economic costs of obesity. A fat tax may be placed on fattening foods, beverages or obese people.

The law mandates that local governments and employers add a waist measurement test to the annual mandatory check up of 40-75 year olds. For men and women who fail the test and exceed the maximum allowed waist length of 33.5 and 35.4 inches, they are required to attend a combination of counseling sessions, monitoring through phone and email correspondence, and motivational support depending on the severity of their condition. [6]

However…

Non-compliance has no individual consequence. The responsibility of adherence to the program falls to employers or local government. These providers are required to ensure a minimum of 65% participation, with an overall goal to cut the country’s obesity rates by 25% by year 2015. Failure to meet these goals results in fines of almost 10% of current health payments.

In my eyes, that is absolutely genius! I believe that every country should implement similar laws. The most valuable resource of every country is its’ people. When people are obese they experience a plethora of diseases and the cost of treating such diseases is insane. Sick people don’t work, they only cost money.

In a Nutshell

Judging by the foods the least obese countries in the world eat, you can make an assumption that eating three basic meals per day (with snacking if needed) consisting of staples such as potatoes, rice, noodles, accompanied by a protein of your choice and a healthy dose of vegetables is the way to go if you want to be healthy and thin.

Also, innovative government measures like the fat tax may slow down the obesity epidemic, or turn it around completely.

Do you think that fat tax is too much, or is it a great idea?

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Written by Mark Forge

Mark Forge is the founder of FatForge - an information website dedicated to busting nutrition myths, scams and lies while helping people turn their weight around. If you want to lose weight I suggest starting here.

2 Comments

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  1. Hi. It’s interesting that you focused on Asia because I’ve been stating in the comments section of articles that appear in Disqus that maintaining a healthy weight is NOT difficult at all.

    I’ve also maintained, time and time again, that one doesn’t need to be obsessive about calories and gym workouts.

    It’s good that you’re doing this. Please continue to spread the truth.

    • That’s true! Generally, there’s a lot of misinformation on the Internet when it comes to weight loss. Lot’s of worthless workouts, diet plans, pills, you name it. In reality, it’s so simple and straightforward.

      Thanks for your comment, you made my day! 🙂

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