What do a Japanese man from Okinawa, a Scandinavian woman and an inhabitant of the Vilcabamba valley in South America have in common? They all have an exemplary lifestyle. As a result, they are in great shape, are hardly overweight and live longer than the rest of the world. Their secret? A healthy and balanced diet, based on ancestral culinary habits.
“Let your food be your only medicine”, as Hippocrates said more than 2,000 years ago. Today more than ever, we are aware that our diet is one of the keys to our physical and psychological well-being. But how many of us still believe that the word diet necessarily means restriction? In reality, the expression “diet” simply defines the way we eat, whether it is right or wrong. We have listed here five diets that have proven themselves and are now among the best diets in the world. What do they have in common? They are all based on traditional and ancestral cooking habits. Their main virtue? To provide those who follow it with the bare necessities, both in terms of nutrition and pleasure. In the end, those who practice them are healthy, slim and live longer. What if all it took was a simple return to basics to eat better and healthier?
The Okinawa diet: a Zen diet
Who hasn’t heard of Okinawa, the island in Japan nicknamed “the land of the happy immortals”, where the largest proportion of centenarians in the world live? But who says long life, says good health, good lifestyle and therefore, little overweight. Thus, in general, the Japanese suffer much less from cancer and cardiovascular diseases than Westerners. Moreover, they have a good bone density (no or no osteoporosis).
The Okinawan diet
it is essentially composed of fish, shellfish, seaweed, vegetables, spices, herbs, cereals and fruits. Meat is consumed twice as much as in the rest of Japan, as well as legumes and green vegetables.
tofu, rapeseed oil, soybeans, tea (green, jasmine-flavored, or barley tea), red beans (azuki), black mushrooms (shitake), and goya (a kind of bitter cucumber).
The Cretan diet: a Mediterranean flavour
Olive oil, tomatoes, feta cheese, yogurt with honey… Everyone has a vague idea of what the Cretan diet is, one of the most famous “long life” diets. It is based on the best principles of the Mediterranean diet. Many studies have shown that the Cretan diet, even when adapted to French dietary habits, reduces recurrence of heart attacks and prevents heart disease and cancer.
The Cretan diet
is rich in cereals, olive oil, fish, fruits and vegetables, but low in meat, eggs, potatoes and sweets. Wheat, flax, sesame, barley, olives, pork, goat and lamb are processed into breads, oils, cheeses, kebabs and stews. Fish and wild herbs have a special place on the menu.
The main products
olive oil, sheep or goat milk, houmus (chickpea purée), vine leaves stuffed with rice, bread (in the form of cereal cakes flavored with poppy, cumin, olives…).
The Nordic diet: eating like a Viking
The Icelanders, but also the other Scandinavians (Danes, Swedes, Norwegians and Finns) are on the way to taking the lead of the populations whose diet allows them to live the longest and in good health. Food quality, sensitivity to seasons and organic food, resistance to foreign trends (and fast food in particular), the Nordics have everything right!
Food in the Nordic countries
it is essentially composed of fish (fatty and lean), whole grains (barley, rye, oats), potatoes, game, berries, cabbage, roots (carrots, parsnips…), dairy products and fresh herbs.
salmon and herring, fish oil, dark bread, blueberries (cranberries, cranberries, blackcurrants…), lean beef, rapeseed oil and fermented foods (such as sauerkraut).
The Ecuadorian diet: from the valley of the centenarians
The inhabitants of the Vilcabamba valley in Ecuador are, as in Okinawa, a kind of exception and many scientists have tried to discover their secret. Anxious to preserve their discretion, its inhabitants have even taken the habit of erasing the dates of death inscribed on the tombstones of their centenarian parents. Also famous in South America as the “sacred valley” or “paradise of eternal youth”, this valley has 11% of sexagenarians (compared to 4% in the rest of the country).
The food in Vilcabamba
is rich in fresh vegetables (peas, avocados, tomatoes, carrots, peppers), dried vegetables (beans), potatoes, manioc or cereals (rice, quinoa, corn) and fruits (exotic fruits, bananas, plums, chestnuts…). Many types of meat are consumed but sparingly (chicken, pork, turkey, wild boar, monkey, snake…).
The main products
yuca (manioc with yellow and red tubers used to make tapioca), cuy (guinea pig served grilled or smoked), parrilladas (grilled meats), empanadas (fritters), dried fish and chocolate (especially in the form of cocoa drinks).
The Caucasian diet: mountain people, old and happy
The fascination for this region of the world goes back to the end of the 19th century. Many travelers (writers, botanists, archaeologists…) went there for a holiday or a spa treatment on the Black Sea. All of them testified of the beauty of the Circassian women. Abkhazia, located between the Caucasus mountains and the Black Sea, was at that time given as the country of centenarians.
it consists of many vegetables (onions, dandelions, red beans, spinach, cabbage…), herbs and spices, fruits, nuts (in sauces and oils), yoghurt, honey, dried cheese or cornmeal bread stuffed with cheese. Meat remains a luxury reserved for festive meals. Fish is absent, except for those who live near a lake.
The main products
lobio (a dish made of red beans and nuts), cheese (made from curdled and fermented milk), wine, tea, fairies (oily fruits of the beech tree), churned butter (made from lamb fat), liquid yogurt and sok (a local fruit juice).