Each of us sooner or later comes to the understanding that food should be not only tasty and satisfying, but also healthy. With a lack of knowledge in this area, there is a threat to plunge into the study of all kinds of food systems, properties of products and ingenious recipes, especially since in our information age it is available to everyone. But there is another way, safer and more enjoyable – learning the principles of traditional cuisines. Almost all traditional cuisines with a rich history can be safely called healthy, otherwise they would not have survived to this day. Forbes magazine has tried to single out the most outstanding from the huge number of healthy cuisines. This rating “Culinary Eden” presents to your attention.
It should be noted that this rating is compiled on the basis of indicators of health and life expectancy of the modern population of the country, and they are influenced not only by food, but also by lifestyle and, to some extent, national character. In addition, residents do not always adhere to the traditional dietary structure of their ancestors, but adopt completely uncharacteristic habits, which, of course, affects their health and life expectancy. That is why many extremely useful national cuisines (Russian, Uzbek, Finnish) did not occupy prominent places in the rating of usefulness.
1. The first place in the rating of usefulness belongs to Japanese cuisine, thanks to which the Japanese live for a long time and are practically not familiar with excess weight and diseases associated with it. No wonder, because Japanese cuisine is very low in meat, milk, animal fats and simple carbohydrates. The basis of Japanese cuisine is fish, seaweed and other seafood, vegetables, soy and rice. Pork, chicken and eggs are occasionally eaten. Fermented vegetables, soy and algae provide the body with vitamins and maintain a healthy gut microflora, while a variety of fish dishes satisfy the protein and fat needs. It should be noted that fish and seafood in Japan is bought not frozen, but fresh, fresh from the sea. Minimal culinary processing (quick frying, steaming) of all products allows you to preserve the maximum amount of nutrients in them. Soy to some extent replaces the Japanese milk, cheese, meat. Japanese cuisine is one of the few where vegetable and fish soups are still popular. Every lunch is not complete without sauces and spices that stimulate digestion: soy sauces, wasabi, pickled ginger. In Japan, great attention is paid to the seasonality of food. They try to eat vegetables and fruits only during their ripening period. Winter and summer tables practically do not have the same dishes, with the exception of rice, a basic product of Japanese cuisine.
Let’s pay attention to Japanese sweets. They are made with rice flour, fruit juices and thickeners extracted from seaweed, which is far from our concept of sweet, but for the best, because excess sugar and fat does not improve health at all. As for the drinks, the Japanese prefer green tea. Moreover, the most common tea in Japan – matcha (powder) – allows you not to be limited only to the infusion of tea leaves, but to use them completely. Do not forget about the traditional Japanese attitude to food: preserving the original appearance of products, the obligatory presence of 5 flavors and 5 colors on the table, small portions, simple and elegant serving with many plates and gravy boats of various colors and fancy shapes.
2. The second place is given to the cuisine of Singapore, an island city-state located in Southeast Asia. The proximity to Japan, China, Thailand, India and other countries with ancient culinary traditions has allowed the people of Singapore to borrow the best from them and adapt according to their tastes. It is not surprising that in Singapore you can taste not only local dishes, but also get acquainted with the best examples of the cuisines of neighboring peoples. In addition to rice, soybeans, fish and seafood traditional for all of Asia, the cuisine of Singapore, thanks to the hot and humid equatorial climate, is replete with coconuts and all kinds of tropical fruits. Singaporean cuisine has significantly more meat and fried dishes than Japanese, but this is offset by a huge variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs and spices. The main techniques of Singaporean cuisine are quick frying with spices, stewing, boiling in broth and steaming, pickling. It is safe to say that Singaporean cuisine is the most successful example of culinary eclecticism (a mixture of styles).
3. Chinese cuisine was only in 3rd place, although it is even more diverse than Japanese and Singaporean. It is difficult to name the distinctive features of Chinese cuisine, since it combines the traditions of four regions, the cuisines of which are radically different. Still, it can be noted that the main disadvantages of Chinese cuisine are the abundance of fried foods and love for all types of meat. The positive aspects of Chinese cuisine are small portions, variety, abundance of spices, and extensive use of tea.
Chinese cuisine is based on rice and legumes (mainly soybeans and beans). It is characterized by a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs – everything that the land and the sea gives is used. Lack of flavor can be easily hidden with sauces and spices. Fish in China is eaten only in coastal areas. Inland, it is replaced by chicken, pork and other exotic meats such as snakes and insects.
Chinese chefs have a saying “you can cook anything except the Moon and its reflection.” Everything else can be finely chopped and quickly fried in a wok, or pickled and left for several months.
4. European traditional cuisines, perhaps due to their relatively small age, cannot compete with Asian ones. However, the fourth place on the list of healthy cuisines belongs to Swedish cuisine. In this country, there are quite a lot of centenarians and only 11% of the population are overweight, which is already quite good in our time, although in Asian countries this figure is 1-2%.
The Swedish diet is based on fish and other seafood and seafood – herring, salmon, tuna, pike, caviar, crayfish, seaweed. Quite a lot of meat is used – pork, venison, poultry and wild poultry. Vegetables and fruits are scarce in Swedish cuisine due to the harsh climate. Their place is taken by root crops – potatoes, turnips, carrots, beets – and a wide variety of local berries. In Sweden, black bread and a variety of cereals are popular; baked goods are rarely prepared. The disadvantages of traditional Swedish cuisine are especially pronounced in winter, when you have to eat smoked meats, sausages, salted fish and pickled vegetables.
6. Mediterranean cuisine, although it is considered the standard of healthy nutrition, does not take the most honorable 6, 7 and 8 places. The most useful in the Mediterranean can be considered Italian cuisine. Although most will call pizza, lasagna, pasta and other types of pasta the visiting cards of Italy, these are far from the only dishes of this beautiful land. Vegetables play a more important role in Italian cuisine: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, onions, artichokes. Neither pizza nor other flour dishes are possible without them. Vegetables are eaten fresh, pickled, boiled. Besides pasta, rice and corn are very popular in Italy. The sources of protein in Italian cuisine are seafood, poultry, mushrooms, legumes and nuts. Italians practically do not eat fatty meat. The main sources of fat are a variety of cheeses, nuts and olive oil. Olives, capers, anchovies and many herbs are used as flavoring accents: basil, rosemary, oregano, mint. Quality grape wine, grappa and a variety of liqueurs and liqueurs are used very sparingly. Italian cuisine is famous for sweets: tiramisu, ice cream, marzipan, but they are consumed much less often than fresh fruits and berries.
7. The cuisine of Spain yields one position to the Italian one due to the higher content of meat and hot spices in it. Otherwise, everything is repeated: rice, pasta, vegetables, fruits, seafood, cheeses, olive oil, wine.
8. Greek cuisine may be healthier than many of the higher ranked ones, but living conditions in Greece do not have the best impact on the health of the population, so Greek cuisine will have to settle for 8th place. As in the rest of the Mediterranean, Greece is very fond of seafood (especially sardines, anchovies and various shellfish), olive oil, vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants), fruits (peaches), citrus fruits, nuts, spices, aromatic herbs, honey. Grains are not held in high esteem in Italy; beans and corn are taking their place. Lamb, goat and chicken are especially popular meat. Dairy products occupy a special place in Greek cuisine: yoghurts and cheeses. The culinary techniques of Greek cuisine are extremely simple and retain the original taste and aroma of the products. Interestingly, Greek cuisine practically does not know sauces.
9. Israeli cuisine, like a melting pot, combines ancient recipes borrowed from all over the world. The culinary traditions of modern Israel were influenced by ancient religious norms (kashrut), according to which, for example, only the meat of ruminant cloven-hoofed animals and fish with scales can be used for food, moreover, meat and milk should be prepared and consumed separately. In Israeli cuisine, of course, everything that the land and waters of Israel give is very popular: fish, poultry, vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, lettuce), root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beets), peas, beans, herbs, etc. spices (coriander, mint, sesame, cinnamon), honey. Cooking many Israeli dishes (gefilte fish, hummus, falafel) requires not only skill, but also time.
10. Korean cuisine did not make it to the top rankings because of its spiciness. Many Korean dishes contain a huge amount of red pepper, garlic, ginger, vinegar and other hot spices that are not useful for everyone, but which are indispensable in hot climates. Otherwise, Korean cuisine does not go beyond Asian traditions and is replete with rice, soy products, fish and seaweed. Of the vegetables, cabbage, carrots, radishes, ferns, and reeds are especially appreciated. They are eaten fresh or pickled in spicy concoctions (kimchi). From meat, pork, beef and chicken are used, abundantly flavored with hot sauces. The main methods of food preparation are boiling, marinating and frying. Like Japanese cuisine, Korean food is small and has a wide variety of dishes.
As you can see, all kitchens that bring health and longevity to their lovers have a lot in common. They prefer fresh local vegetables, fruits, berries, fish dishes, seaweed and other seafood. Side dishes are usually very simple (rice, corn, herbs). Spices are used generously. Meat and milk, and therefore sausages and dairy products, are of natural origin. Animal fats and sweet baked goods are not consumed every day. Fruits, berries, nuts, honey successfully cope with the role of sweets. It is important to note that traditional cuisines involve the ability to cook from scratch, that is, from raw, unprocessed foods, and completely exclude the use of convenience foods and fast food.
By following these simple rules, you can easily organize one of the healthiest cuisines in the world in your home.