The 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country index is out and you can brace yourself for some neat surprises. Given that many Indians are known to have a love for the Spanish culture and their delicious paella and healthy Mediterranean salad dishes, here’s one more reason to love all things Spanish. Now Spain has clinched the no. 1 spot as the world’s healthiest country, with Italy coming to a close second and Iceland at the third spot, followed rank-wise by Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Singapore, Norway and Israel. Be surprised to know that the US hasn’t made it to the list while Canada and South Korea have! Wait, there’s more to understand from the data coming in: Smaller countries are turning out to be the healthiest of the lot!
According to researchers, eating habits placed in Spain and Italy right at the top of the charts, particularly in terms of long life expectancy. Other factors taken into consideration while grading the countries included environmental factors, clean water, sanitation, use of tobacco, obesity, among other indicators.
The big question for health-conscious Indians is this – which dietary models or best practices can we adopt from the world’s healthiest countries? Let’s find out.
A detailed review by the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that the Mediterranean diet is the most likely and recommended dietary model when it comes to protection against coronary heart disease. Further, the study tosses up some interesting facts pertaining to the health benefits that are characterized by high intake of nuts, olive oil, vegetables, moderate consumption of poultry and fish, low intake of red meat, sweets, dairy items and moderate intake of wine with meals.
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While Indian cuisine is known to use oils such as mustard, coconut, groundnut and other refined oils, the amount of olive oil used is perhaps minimal when compared with the consumption patterns in Spain or Italy. As per the New England Journal of Medicine review, the amount of oil used in the Mediterranean diet includes oil that is being used for cooking in households, eating outside the home and drizzled in salads. Clearly, there is one pattern that stands out for health-conscious Indians – the Spanish, by and large, do not use refined oils. Their high intake of olive oil is included in their meals at home, meals outside their home and even in salads.
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More interestingly, way back in 2016, scientists and researchers hailed Sardinian food as the ideal blueprint to follow when it ranked high and placed Italy right at the top of the world’s healthiest country list in terms of life expectancy. The Sardinia diet became an instant global hit, known for its low intake of meat and high intake of fresh local produce as well as pulses and legumes. The local wine and local cheeses made from sheep and goat milk became an area of study and research.
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While researchers came up with different theories highlight the benefits of the eating style followed in Sardinia, a key pattern across Italy and Sardinia still holds the key to good health – a simple way of life, with food that is prepared from local produce, fresh vegetables and fresh dairy food.
In a nutshell, eating local food is the best way forward for good health and this perhaps explains why small countries are leading the way forward on the list of healthiest countries in the world.