From stress-relieving siestas to immune system-boosting herbs and spices, just about every culture around the globe offers unique, effective tips and solutions for managing weight and staying healthy.
To live healthier and enjoy a higher quality of life, check out these 10 global health tips from cultures all around the world:
1. Use the Freshest, Highest-Quality Ingredients You Can
All too many busy Americans choose processed foods over natural. Processed food options are often packed with sugar, salt and other additives that can be very damaging to health. Try instead to take cues from countries like Japan and Italy who favor farm-fresh, seasonal produce in their cuisines. Go to local markets and buy your ingredients fresh — organic, if possible. If you’re ambitious, consider growing your own food.
2. Eat From All of the Food Groups
Many people move from one “food fad” to another, cutting out fat one week and carbs the next. However, diets like the Mediterranean diet, which embraces all things in moderation, are renowned as incredibly healthy. The Mediterranean diet allows for carbs, wine, dairy and olive oil, and those who eat this way often remain healthy.
3. Favor Fish Over Meats
Red meat is a staple of many diets, and it’s believed to be one of the causes of heart disease worldwide. A healthier protein option follows Icelandic and Japanese diets, which are rich in seafood.
High in Omega 3s, not only is seafood great for heart health, it can also lower one’s propensity toward “winter blues”, or seasonal affective disorder.
4. Eat Slowly and Take Time to Savor Food
Take a page from European cultures such as Italy and France, where food is savored in a very leisurely fashion. Taking a longer amount of time to eat meals and savoring each bite allows you to enjoy your meals more and reduce the risk of over-consuming.
It takes at least 20 minutes for the body to register a full feeling. Dining with others also enhances this savoring effect and allows you to better gauge how much you are eating.
5. Stop Eating Before Feeling Completely Full
The Okinawans have the world’s longest life expectancy and have a practice of eating until they feel just 80% full. This habit is known as “hara hachi bu”.
Eating more slowly help you to recognize when you feel full and avoid overeating. Remember that it takes 20 minutes to register feeling full.
6. Spice it Up
Whether you love Mexican dishes or are partial to Indian cuisine, eating more spicy, flavorful foods can help you to boost your overall health. Studies have shown that turmeric – a spice found in curries – can help to slow Alzheimer’s disease. Chili peppers speed the metabolism and cause you to eat more slowly.
7. Have Alcohol with Meals
While an excess of alcohol is a threat to health, drinking wine (especially red wine) has documented health benefits when consumed in moderation.
Mediterranean habits of having wine with meals in moderation cuts health risks associated with alcohol. It also increases good cholesterol and lowers the risk of heart disease.
8. Take a Daily Nap
Spanish cultures have a long tradition of taking an afternoon “siesta”. The Japanese have also embraced the “power-nap” during the work day.
Sleep can help you to boost memory, reduce stress levels and help you live longer. Taking a half-hour nap three or more times per week leads to a 37% lower risk of fatal heart disease.
9. Family Time
Research findings have consistently indicated that having healthy ties to family and good friends helps people to live longer, healthier lives. This may be part of the reason that Italian and Hawaiian cultures are renowned for their good health and longevity.
A close-knit family offers both emotional and financial support, reducing stress in life and increasing feelings of well-being.
A survey of numerous countries revealed that Brazilians spent the most time with their families (74 hours per week on average) and had some of the lowest levels of stress. Take a page from close-knit cultures and strive to cultivate stronger connections with those you care about.
10. Don’t Drive — Walk and Bike
While many Americans take time to hit the gym at least a couple of times per week, research has shown that more integrated and regular daily activity can be even more effective than a sporadic workout regimen. All too many of us do very little outside of those trips to the gym.
While you don’t have to forgo the gym workouts entirely, you can effectively boost health and fitness by taking inspiration from people in the Netherlands, where there are more bicycles than people. Strive to squeeze in more everyday physical activity like biking or walking to the store or to work. Consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Every positive lifestyle change helps, and together they can all add up to better health and well-being. There is much to be learned from our neighbors all around the globe. Hopefully this list will help you get started on the path toward better health.
What have you learned from other cultures about improving your health?