Nigeria, West Africa has been crowned highest rank as the country with the healthiest diet. Today, April 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) marks the World Health Day by calling on action against diabetes.
In its first ‘Global report on diabetes’, WHO said 422 million people worldwide has diabetes, highlighting the need to step up prevention and treatment of the disease.
While Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition which is often inherited, Type 2 is the most common that can be caused by factors including obesity and age, which stop the pancreas from producing enough insulin to process sugar.
Eating the correct foods, therefore, can help a person to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes. To mark World Health Day, the Independent UK has listed some of the world’s healthiest diets, which help to stave off chronic diseases like diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet has been regarded as one of the world’s healthiest as it features: fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, nuts, red wine, fish and dairy, and olive oil (rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids known to increase good cholesterol, which protects the heart).
Many studies have linked the Med. diet as highly beneficial for overall health, reductions in chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and dementia.
In Japan, the population has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. According to a recent study, the country’s diet, high in certain carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, fish and meat, is a link to this effect.
It was recalled that the Japanese government issued a recommended food guide in 2005, which encouraged the population to eat diets low in saturate fats, processed foods and high in carbohydrates gained from rice and vegetables.
The Nordic nations include Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Their diet features: Rye bread, Oily fish, local fruits such as rose hip, root vegetables, and fermented milk and cheese.
Such diets as found by a recent study in ‘The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’ is comparable to the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, and it reduces inflammation, which causes chronic conditions and increases the risk of colon cancer.
The Nordics consume diets high in fibre, low in sugar and plenty of fruits and vegetables. They eat less meat dishes and processed diary foods.
West African Diet
Researchers at the University of Cambridge who assessed the consumption of healthy foods including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and food high in fibre and omega 3 found that diets in West Africa ranked the highest.
Food in West Africa varies greatly across 16 countries, but cuisine can include Jollof rice, groundnut stew, dried and smoked fish, and yams.
These outline foods are well known stable food in Nigeria and other West African countries like Mali, Chad, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, countries found to trump even the Japanese for eating healthily in a recent study.
“This diet is rich in cereal staples, lean meat, vegetables and considerably less processed foods than Western countries,” said Ms Daniels, adding it is generally lower in calories which reduce rates of obesity and diabetes.
“Although the reduction in calorie value can often be seen for malnourishment and lack of access to food which must also be considered,” she said.
The French diets featuring lots and lots of cheese – food high in saturated fat, has been the nation’s paradox that had puzzled scientists; that such a nation could have such low rates of heart disease and obesity?
However, one study showed that the ‘quantity’ of food eaten is the key. While the French may consume croissant, rich cheese and meats, they do so in small portions.
Scientists also highlighted that although restaurants in Paris and joints in Philadelphia serve dishes containing 277g and 346g respectively, eating high ‘quality’ food that is palatable can help a person stop from feeling deprived and overeating.
“The French diet contains cheese, bread and wine. However the portion sizes are much smaller than the British and Americans and general overall calories consumed are lower,” said Ms Daniels.
What links these diets is the fact they are based around plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, including wholegrain cereals, beans and pulses. She added it was also important to choose the right fats, such as extra virgin olive oil and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and to eat fish and moderate amounts of lean meat.
As for drink, opt for water or tea, and wine with some meals.
“Avoiding processed foods, and cook from scratch where possible, allowing occasional treats such as dark chocolate,” she said.