Even though the globe is presently experiencing a public health catastrophe because to the COVID-19 virus, the United States may still learn a great deal from the health and wellness practices of the nations with the world’s healthiest populations.
The Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index ranks the healthiest countries in the world by evaluating 169 nations yearly based on a variety of health-related variables. They evaluate countries using a range of measures, such as life expectancy, the frequency of obesity and cigarette smoking, and environmental variables, such as the availability of clean water and sanitation.
With an average life expectancy of 83.5 years in 2019, Spain topped the list as the nation with the highest life expectancy. Italy, Iceland, Japan, and Switzerland rounded up the list’s top five, with Switzerland in first position.
Last year, the United States of America did not make it into the top 30 on the index. This is mostly due to the persistent obesity pandemic that continues to plague the country. Despite more Americans exercising than ever before (the proportion of Americans who exercised went from 18.2% in 2008 to 24.3% in 2017), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that over 42% of Americans are still considered obese.
What can the United States learn from the world’s healthiest and longest-living nations?
Stick to simple, unprocessed foods
Consumption has an important part in establishing a person’s overall health and degree of wellbeing. The need for convenience has driven many Americans to eat more highly processed foods and beverages. The normal American diet has gotten more calorically dense and greater in the proportion of calories derived from saturated fats throughout time.
According to the conclusions of a research done by academics at George Washington University, “the rising obesity epidemic in the United States and related chronic diseases are associated with an increase in ultra-processed food consumption.”
In contrast, many European nations have preserved their culinary traditions throughout history and currently enjoy diets that are lower in processed foods, have less unhealthy fats, and contain a higher number of vegetables, fibre, and lean meats.
It has been established that the Mediterranean diet is among the most nutritious diets in the world due to its concentration on heart-healthy good fats, vegetables, legumes, fish, and shellfish. Spain and Italy both made Bloomberg’s list of the healthiest nations due to the prevalence of the Mediterranean cuisine in their respective populations. In addition, Spain and a number of other European countries are well-known for their tapas meals, which are served on small plates and emphasize portion control.
Despite being separated by tens of thousands of kilometers from the Mediterranean region, both Iceland and Japan adhere to traditional diets that emphasize natural foods over manufactured foods and consist mostly of fish, shellfish, and vegetables. Instead of covering their food with sauces, the Japanese prefer to allow the natural flavors of the food come through. The Icelandic cuisine often consists of lamb, fish, and dairy items.
Switzerland is well-known for the decadence and richness of its chocolate and cheese, but the Swiss diet is also characterized by the use of natural, unprocessed foods that promote satiety and help to prevent overeating.
Get Up and About
According to Bloomberg’s survey, the majority of individuals in each of the top five healthiest countries choose to exercise outside rather than at a gym. Hiking and swimming are the most popular kinds of exercise in Iceland, the most active nation in Europe according to the World Health Organization. While Spain, Italy, and Japan provide many opportunities for outdoor activities like as walking, hiking, and running, the Swiss Alps offer some of the world’s finest skiing. Switzerland is the location of these mountains.
Walking to the shop or planting and maintaining a garden are examples of movement-increasing activities that are prevalent in societies with the greatest percentages of overall well health. Traditional indoor and outdoor types of exercise are easily accessible in many countries.
According to the Bloomberg Index, all of these nations have good air quality, less opioid addiction issues, and more walkable towns and cities, all of which lead to a higher life expectancy. All of these nations embrace the dietary and fitness trends of whole foods, smaller amounts, and frequent exercise.
Although there are more people exercising than ever before in the United States, we are not making progress in the kitchen, which is an essential component of overall health. The United States would do well to follow the example of its more health-conscious neighbors and revert to consuming whole, unprocessed foods that provide a balance of macronutrients and micronutrients. Altering one’s diet and engaging in regular physical exercise would undoubtedly help the United States rise higher in the global rankings of health and, more importantly, would increase the quality of life and life expectancy of all of its citizens.