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In the United States, it’s easy to get swept away by the latest diet trend or superfood. They’re not always what they’re cracked up to be, and stringent diets can be frustratingly hard to follow. That’s why it can be really refreshing to take a good hard look outward at the rest of the world. Or if you’ve ever spun a globe and asked yourself, “What do people eat in this part of the planet?” then you’re in the right place. And who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to incorporate some foods or practices into your daily routine right here at home! Without further adieu, let’s take a look at a handful of different countries.
If you take nothing else from the Russian way of life, remember these two things: bake and boil instead of frying and grow your own produce. These may not be novel concepts, but they really are baked (pun intended) into Russian culture. Many Russians grow their own fruits and vegetables in the gardens of their country homes, called “dachas.” And aside from having a funny name, borscht (beet soup) is a fine example of these principals. There are so many ways to make borscht, but the main emphasis is on the beets that make up the base. You just can’t go wrong with beets either — they’re chocked full of good things like anti-inflammatory properties, fiber and potassium.
Russia’s neighbors to the south also employ some healthy habits worth looking at. Vegetables are a big staple in any meal, usually taking up at least half of the plate (or bowl). Despite what we’ve learned from fast food or takeout chinese restaurants, a typical meal only has small amounts of white rice, noodles and meat — the bulk of it is produce and fish. Soup is also a big part of China’s food culture and that often includes a fermented element such as miso. These liquidy portions can help your gut through the incorporation of natural probiotics.
Scandinavians have a knack for eating only local and seasonal produce, so they often eat food that can be easily grown in colder climates — which translates to a cheaper and more environmentally friendly kind of agriculture. Aside from greens (which are sometimes pickled), Swedes eat a lot of fatty fish, whole grains and root vegetables. It’s the whole grains that help the Swedish people from overeating. The human body wouldn’t be able to comfortably handle an oversized portion of grains and oats.
What’s up with Ethiopian food? “Wat” is what’s up. Wat is a type of stew or curry that’s usually made up of lentils, chickpeas, onions, potatoes and kale. Sounds pretty good so far, right? The best part is the injera (flatbread) that acts as a sort of vehicle for the stew to get from the dish to your mouth. Injera is made from teff, which is a highly nutritional grain full of calcium, protein, iron and vitamin C.
Prepare your mouth for watering, because Brazillian dishes are made with delicious local ingredients like yams, papaya, black beans, nuts and acai berries. But the really impressive part of Brazillian food culture is the list of guidelines their government came out with in 2014. It’s an outline to encourage their people to make their own food and not get enticed by marketing schemes for unhealthy junk food. This sentiment is summed up by the guideline’s golden rule: "Always prefer natural or minimally processed foods and freshly made dishes and meals to ultra-processed foods.”
We can thank Spain (and Greece) for the all-famous Mediterranean diet! This isn’t one of those fad diets — it’s literally a way of life for the people who have lived in that part of the world for generations. A glass of red wine each day and a heavy emphasis on fruits, vegetables, nuts and pulses keeps the diet of the region relatively simple but tasty. The area is known for its amazing produce and, of course, olive oil. Olive oil is the glue that brings many Spanish dishes together: salads, soups and everything in between. And we all know olive oil is stuffed full of a crazy amount of health benefits.
The next time you feel yourself entering a food rut, just remember there’s a whole wide world of healthy dishes out there. Don’t be afraid to look across the ocean for some inspirational eats!