We’ve all heard the saying that French women don’t get fat, while 36% of the United States population is classified as obese. Scientists, doctors and researchers have been collecting data from around the world on how to optimize physical health. Recently, there has been a movement to look at blue spots, as explorer Dan Buettner calls them, or cold spots as physician Daphne Miller named them in her book. These are, in common language, areas of the world where common Western diseases like depression, heart disease, and certain cancers are very uncommon. The researchers examined the diets and behaviors of each region to try to pinpoint things that most Americans can do to help improve their health.
One thing they found is that the French do indeed have a secret to staying slim. They enjoy multiple courses of rich food in small portions with company. Through the act of savoring full flavors, they consume less calories overall. Additionally, physical activity is a way of life in France. Many buildings are without elevators, forcing climbed stairs, and exercise is seen as a part of everyday life, not something to fit in at the gym. The movement has also found that Scandinavians eat a locally sourced diet high in omega-3’s and gathered berries and greens, which has made their population remarkably low in depression rates considering the amount of sun they take in. Make this a part of your life style by eating farm to table when possible, and taking a fruit-picking trip for exercise and delicious produce. Okinawa, in Japan, boasts the highest rate of people living over age 100 in the world, alongside lower rates of dementia, heart disease, and cancers including breast, ovarian and colon. Okinawans achieve this with a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables, fiber, sea vegetables, fish, and minimal dairy or meat. They practice hara hachi bu, or eating to an 80% level of fullness and practice meditation to reduce stress. The Mediterranean diet continues to be lauded for lowering risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s through consumption of “good fats” from olive oil, foods high in antioxidants, lean protein, and wine in moderation. The common thread seems to be to build physical activity into daily life, eat in moderation, and to treat meals as an event to be enjoyed with family or friends rather than a mission to become full. Eating fruits and vegetables alongside lean proteins are beneficial, while dairy and meat should be consumed in moderation to enjoy the secrets of health around the world.