In the past decade, we have regularly seen the population go into a frenzy over the next plague to infect the world. First we were all portended to succumb to the swine flu, and then it was the Ebola virus that would drive us to extinction. Meanwhile, no one was paying attention to one of the worst assassins of all: obesity. In the year 2016, nearly 30% of the world population is classified as either obese or overweight and that number is only growing with each passing day.
The world provides for a diverse array of dietary habits across different cultures, and certain countries are definitely hosting a majority of the obesity-inflicted population. A look at the top five countries on each end of the spectrum is surely an eye-opener.
A shocking 69% of the Egyptian population is obese or overweight and nearly 11% of the population is suffering from diabetes. This can presumably be linked to the fact that bread and beer are two of the most prominent staples in the typical Egyptian diet.
In addition to theses carbohydrate-intense components, the Egyptian diet is also very heavy in red meat, another hindrance to health. What’s even worse is that even these meats are typically breaded or fried, not exactly making these meats any healthier.
Tonga is currently leading the world in obesity with a disquieting obesity rate of 90%. “Junk meat” is a term that has commonly been thrown around in reference to a Tonganese diet essential. Meat in Tonga, similar to that of Spam, almost always comes in a tin can, loaded with sodium and saturated fats–not exactly a favorable element of a healthy diet.
While the “junk meat” trend is a prominent factor in the increasing waistlines of Tonganese citizens, the prevalence of carbohydrates in their diet is certainly not helping either.
High starch, high protein and high obesity rates are quite popular on this Polynesian island. Palau has an obesity rate of nearly 80% and a diabetes rate of just over 12%. The Palauan diet is rich in high-starch carbohydrates and whatever meat is found readily available.
Rice is also an important staple of the Palauan diet, as is beer. This adoration of starch-ridden carbohydrates and fatty meats in Palau are keen provokers of the high rates of obesity and diabetes that are inflicting the island.
Ranking as the fourth fattest country in the world, Kuwait’s population has an obesity rate of 74.2% and nearly a quarter of their population has been diagnosed with diabetes. Once again, we see that an emphasis on carbohydrates is not helping anyone.
Rice is an ubiquitous essential in the typical Kuwaiti diet and other conventional favorites include flatbreads and other types of baked bread, served with a tangy fish sauce, known as “Mahyawa.”
Leading the world in the percentage of population inflicted with diabetes, Kiribati has earned their spot as the unhealthiest country in the world. They have a diabetes rate of over 30% and an obesity rate of over 50%.
While the traditional foods in Kiribati are relatively healthy, consisting mainly of fruits and leafy greens, processed foods in Kiribati are cheaper than anywhere else in the world. The discrepancy between access to healthy food and processed food is an issue inflicting many nations across the globe. Eating healthy becomes much more of a struggle when a bag of apples is double the price of a bag of potato chips.
Despite the fact that the Spanish diet is full of carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, rices, breads, starches and a myriad of fried foods, Spain maintains its healthy status due to Spaniards ability to maintain healthy portion sizes.
Spain is known for its unique style of dining, known as “tapas.” Tapas meals are essentially a variety of appetizers, served as a meal. The popularity of Tapas style meals has instilled an appreciation for the idea of portion control in the diets of Spaniards, proving that anything is good in moderation.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Mediterranean diet–a diet that most people claim to be a godsend. This dieting fad is actually drawn from the traditional diet of Greece; no wonder they are seen as one of the healthiest countries in the world. This diet is based largely on fresh, seasonal products and is high in dietary fiber, starch, antioxidant vitamins and polyphenols–all advantageous parts of a healthy diet.
In Greece, they eat legions of fresh produce and seafood and are known for leading highly active lifestyles. The combination of healthy eating and high activity definitely assists the Greek in their healthy status.
Although many French foods are rather indulgent, France has stood as a model for health for centuries. Much like the Spanish, the French have mastered the art of portion control and are dedicated to the presence of a well-balanced meal.
Additionally, the French see great importance in the company of fresh food; due to this, fast food plays nearly no role in the French diet. The phrase “quality over quantity” is the best way to describe the diet of the French people.
The Japanese are well known for their healthy diets. The typical Japanese diet is rich in vegetables and seafood. Statistically, the average Japanese citizen consumes nearly 154 pounds of fish, per year.
A diet that is high in seafood is invaluable to maintaining a healthy diet because seafood is rich in vitamins A and D, omega-3 fatty acids and phosphorous and selenium. Rice is also served with nearly every meal. However, this is the only non-vegetable carbohydrate with a major presence in the Japanese diet.
Located on the French Riviera, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco is heavily influenced by a number of the healthiest food cultures in the world. Monaco draws the idea of portion control and their appreciation for a balanced meal from their neighboring country of France.
In addition, the typical diet of Monaco aligns with that of the Mediterranean diet, composed heavily of seafood and fresh vegetables. This immaculate diet, in partnership with the relaxed nature of the country, has left Monaco with the highest life-expectancy rate of any nation in the world.
While obesity and diabetes are still rampantly infecting the globe, you do not need to join the epidemic. It appears that the most effective diet for a healthy life is one that is heavily based on seafood and fresh produce, while remaining conscious of portion sizes. If health is what you seek, remember to avoid the starchy carbs and fatty meats and to find inspiration in the Mediterranean food culture.