What makes traveling around the countries or meeting people from across culture more interesting? If you ask me one of the main things of common interest is “Food”. We all have to eat to survive and good food is an upper like any other good thing! It is that interest which makes a good number of people be adventurous and check out the new restaurant with a “funny” name or try that new dish on the menu which they really are not sure about. Our planet is such an amazing place with the tapestry of cultures interwoven each connected to the other by unknown threads…The differences that make us unique also show up in the ethnic cuisines which are based on the available crops in the region and which are also influenced by the interactions between nations via trade, travel and colonization, which were the beginning of what we see today as the global village.
Examples would be the Chinese Noodles giving rise to the Pasta in Italy, Persian spices becoming an integral part of Indian cuisine etc… Today while reading CNN I found an interesting article about the 10 Healthiest Ethnic Cuisines and that is what today’s post is about. The post is mostly based on Daphne Miller MD’s book The Jungle Effect: The Healthiest Diets from Around the World — Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You.” Daphne is an associate professor in the University of California, San Francisco.
Years back when I crossed the oceans leaving India to join my husband in the US, food was the least of my worries because I grew up with what I believed was “exposure” to the western way of cooking and food habits, Boy! was I in for a surprise?! The my new life changed my view of the world, I realized that in a melding pot of cultures which is the US there are certain places where you can actually find “original” cuisine from a different part of the world and that many mainstream restaurants served what was a mishmash of flavors which went well with the intended clientele!
According to the CNN article the 10 healthiest Ethnic cuisines are the following:
- Greek or Mediterranean Cuisine
image credit @mediterrasian.com
Traditional Greek foods like dark leafy veggies, fresh fruit, high-fiber beans, lentils, grains, olive oil, and omega-3-rich fish deliver lots of immune-boosting and cancer-fighting ingredients that cut your risks of heart disease, diabetes, and other diet-related ailments.
The Greeks often share small plates of food called meze, having just a bite of meat along with low-cal, healthy Greek staples like fresh seafood, slowly digested carbs (beans, eggplant, or whole-grain breads), and small portions of olives and nuts. If you’re eating out, order grilled fish and spinach or other greens sautéed with olive oil and garlic.
“This dish gives you the anti-inflammatory combo of olive oil and greens with the blood-pressure-lowering effects of garlic,” says Daphne Miller.
What to Watch out for – E.g. Spanakopita the Greek Classic spinach pie has layers of dough with butter in between can be calorie and fat laden like a bacon cheese burger.
- California Fresh
California Cuisine is about eating fresh, local ingredients simply prepared and one does not need to live in California to practice that life style. Eating plenty of disease-fighting, naturally low-cal, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables from a local farmers’ market or farm is good for your body, and it’s satisfying, says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., Health magazine’s senior food and nutrition editor.
“Foods grown locally are going to taste better and may have more nutrients,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., Health magazine’s senior food and nutrition editor, while produce that’s shipped cross-country after being harvested can lose vitamin C and folate, not to mention flavor.
What to Watch out for – Adding high fat cheese or other unhealthy additives to the fresh food defeats its purpose and is not “waist friendly”.
Fresh herbs, lots of vegetables and seafood, and cooking techniques that use water or broth instead of oils — these are some of the standout qualities of Vietnamese food. Real Vietnamese cuisine is less about frying and coconut milk, but more about use of spices and flavorful broths etc.
Traditional Vietnamese flavorings (including cilantro, mint, Thai basil, star anise, and red chili) have long been used as alternative remedies for all sorts of ailments, and cilantro and anise have actually been shown to aid digestion and fight disease-causing inflammation.
One of the healthiest and most delicious Vietnamese dishes is pho (pronounced “fuh”), an aromatic, broth-based noodle soup full of antioxidant-packed spices.
What to watch out for – While eating out watch out for fried stuff and fatty short ribs on the menu.
Okinawa in Japan is well known for the longevity of its residents, many of them live a healthy and full life past 100! Miller while travelling through Okinawa found that not only the Okinawan’s healthy, their food habits were simple and easy to follow. “Not only are Okinawans blessed with a diet rich in cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables, but they also prepare them in the healthiest way possible, with a light steam or a quick stir-fry,” Miller explains.
They also practice Hara Hachi Bu, which means “eat until you are eight parts (or 80 percent) full,” she says. These simple diet rules may be why people in Japan are far less likely than Americans to get breast or colon cancer.Japanese staples that are amazing for your health include antioxidant-rich yams and green tea; cruciferous, calcium-rich veggies like bok choy; iodine-rich seaweed (good for your thyroid); omega-3-rich seafood; shiitake mushrooms (a source of iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and folate); and whole-soy foods.
Best items to order in a Japanese Restaurant according to Miller are the Miso soup or the vegetable tofu stir fry!
What to watch out for – White rice can cause a spike in blood sugar, so ask for brown rice, rich in fat-burning resistant starch (RS).
- Indian Cuisine
Image credits @aashirwadrestaurant.com
Indian cuisine brings to mind the smells of spices, colorful curries, naan bread etc… The spices don’t just add to the taste but they also have plenty of health benefits associated to them. Turmeric a staple in almost all curries is an anti-inflammatory and also helps in preventing Alzheimer’s. Turmeric and ginger help fight Alzheimer’s, according to recent studies. Researchers point to the fact that rates of Alzheimer’s in India are four times lower than in America, perhaps because people there typically eat 100 to 200 milligrams of curry everyday.
Finding healthy wholesome dishes in an Indian restaurant is easy if you know what to look for. Daal is a lentil cooked with turmeric, fennel seeds, tomato etc. Lentils and vegetables is a safe bet. Yogurt and lentils are very good for the digestive system as they provide folate and fiber.
What to Watch out for – Any thing deep fried e.g. samosas, fritters etc… curries with cream, butter, coconut milk etc.. those are all loaded with empty calories.
- Italian Image credits @azcentral.com Italian food brings to mind Pizza, Lasagna and other cheese laden American favorites, but in reality the food is healthy when eaten right. Italian food is about fresh ingredients, Olives, Spinach, Tomatoes, Oregano, parsley, basil etc… One of the best ways to get cancer-fighting lycopene is in cooked tomato products: a half-cup of tomato sauce has more than 20 milligrams. Plus, garlic and traditional Italian herbs provide vitamins A and C. And olive oil helps lower cholesterol, fight heart disease, and burn belly fat.
Italians when using cheese use hard cheese like Parmesan etc grated in small amounts.
What to watch out for – Cheesy pizzas, lasagna etc.. loaded with fat and empty calories.
- Spanish Image firstname.lastname@example.org The Spanish tradition of eating tapas (small plates of food): “I love the idea of being able to sample little portions of tasty, healthful foods and making a dinner of it,” Largeman-Roth says.The Spanish eat tons of fresh seafood, vegetables, and olive oil — all rock stars when it comes to your weight and well-being. Super healthy dishes to order: gazpacho (full of cancer-fighting lycopene and antioxidants) and paella (rich in fresh seafood, rice, and veggies).What to watch out for? Avoid fatty sausages and fried items, which can show up on tapas menus in the United States.
- Mexican Image credits @q80s.com Authentic Mexican cuisine can be heart-healthy and even slimming, our judges say. In fact, a Mexican diet of beans, soups, and tomato-based sauces helped lower women’s risk of breast cancer, a study from the University of Utah found.And the cuisine’s emphasis on slowly digested foods like beans and fresh ground corn may provide protection from type 2 diabetes.”Slow-release carbohydrates have been shown to lower blood sugar and even help reverse diabetes,” Miller says.
What to watch out for -Go easy on the chips and dips, keep away from deep fried stuff and also too much of the queso dip.
- South American Image credits@ brazil4tour.comWith 12 countries within its borders, South America has a very diverse culinary repertoire. But our judges applaud the continent’s traditional diet of fresh fruits and vegetables (including legumes) along with high-protein grains like quinoa. In fact, a typical South American meal of rice and beans creates a perfect protein, Largeman-Roth says.
Instead of the whole steak opting for the Ceviche is a healthier option when eating South American food. Ceviche is a mélange of fresh seafood boasts a variety of healthful spices and ingredients, from cilantro and chile peppers to tomatoes and onions.
What to watch out for – Deep fried dishes made from yams, bananas, sausages etc…
Image credits @cityofangelsfestival.com Thai food has come to be synonymous with coconut milk cooked curries and other preparations.Can a soup fight cancer? If it’s a Thai favorite called Tom Yung Gung, the answer just might be yes.
Made with shrimp, coriander, lemongrass, ginger, and other herbs and spices used in Thai cooking, the soup was found to possess properties 100 times more effective than other antioxidants in inhibiting cancerous-tumor growth.
Okinawa in Japan is well known for the longevity of its residents, many of them live a healthy and full life past 100! Miller while travelling through Okinawa found that not only the Okinawan’s healthy, their food habits were simple and easy to follow.
“Not only are Okinawans blessed with a diet rich in cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables, but they also prepare them in the healthiest way possible, with a light steam or a quick stir-fry,” Miller explains.
They also practice Hara Hachi Bu, which means “eat until you are eight parts (or 80 percent) full,” she says. These simple diet rules may be why people in Japan are far less likely than Americans to get breast or colon cancer.
Japanese staples that are amazing for your health include antioxidant-rich yams and green tea; cruciferous, calcium-rich veggies like bok choy; iodine-rich seaweed (good for your thyroid); omega-3-rich seafood; shiitake mushrooms (a source of iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and folate); and whole-soy foods.
I was impressed by the list of cuisines, many a time I tend to mark off cuisines in its entirety as “healthy” or “non-healthy” now I realize it is not really the cuisine that is not healthy, it is my habit of not making an informed decision which is at fault. If I take the time to find what goes into a dish, how it is cooked etc… eating healthy should be a breeze! Here’s to a healthy lifestyle! baby steps
Check out the Book by Daphne Miller at Amazon