Healthy Cuisines of the World

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With countless articles available on-line telling us what we should or should not eat, it can become a frustrating and daunting task to believe what is the best information available on eating healthy.  Information is constantly changing as more and more research is presented almost daily. Foods that were once considered healthy are now deemed unhealthy. With the frantic pace we live in and the abundance of fast food chains, especially in the United States, it’s very easy for us to make poor food choices and eat unhealthily.  If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is look at the rise of obesity and the skyrocketing medical costs in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control 39.8% of Americans are affected by obesity with an annual medical cost of over $147 billion dollars.

The good news is, we have a choice on how and what we eat. Making healthier food choices no longer means sacrificing flavor, in fact it never did.  Listed below are world cuisines that are largely regarded as the healthiest to eat and they are loaded with flavor. Josephine’s Pantry line of international spice blends will help guide you on this journey.  Each will help you to easily prepare an international meal that is delicious and will impress your family, friends and guests.

Mexican

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Here is a good example, many of the Tex-Mex restaurants you find in this country are often overstuffed with foods smothered in cheese.  In comparison, traditional Mexican food includes lots of beans, chilis, corn, soups, and tomatoes. Mexican dishes with the traditional use of multiple layers offers flavors that are complex and exciting to the mouth.  Spicy grilled chicken and beef dishes are excellent, healthier choices that come from Mexican cuisine. There are plenty of vegetarian options for people to choose from as well. Mexican cuisine is one of the first fusion cuisines, combining plenty of elements from Spanish, French, and German cuisine. Flavors of this cuisine vary by region. In the North, you’ll find the cuisine is more influenced by the Germans and North American cowboys. In the Yucatan region of Mexico, the food is more traditional and draws from the Mayan roots of the country, with some influences from Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Florida.  Creole and Spanish influences are the most dominant cuisine in the Vera Cruz region.

Spanish

Let’s make a point here, Spanish food is not Mexican cuisine. Many of the recipes in Spain originate from the Iberian Peninsula. It is a truly distinct cuisine, with very few outside influences all though, you will see Spanish cuisine mentioned as an influence in plenty of other cuisines.  Spanish food is full of fresh vegetables, seafood, and olive oil. Paella, Gazpacho and Tapas are probably considered the most identifiable dishes in Spanish cuisine. Tapas are small plate appetizers that you can combine and share to have a well-rounded meal. These small appetizers are quick and often inexpensive and are a good way to help with portion control.

Italian

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Traditional Italian food is far different from the Americanized version.  Italian cuisine incorporates lots of beans, fish, fruit, grains, olive oil, and vegetables. The ingredients used are always very fresh and are usually locally sourced. Processed foods are used sparingly. The main sources of protein in Italian food comes from beans and fish.  Americanized Italian food has lots of processed melty cheese, but traditional Italian cuisine favors hard cheeses like Parmesan. Cheese is used as a flavor enhancer, not as a standalone ingredient like we do in American style Italian food.

Indian

Indian food in America is far different from the delicious Indian food available in India. In India, the cuisine is fresher, lighter, and more balanced.  Healthier cooking methods are also used. Indian food has a lot of spices, some of which make spicy hot dishes, others that are just for flavoring the food more intensely. The spices used in Indian cooking are very aromatic, and Indian kitchens are often full of extremely delicious scents, not just delicious food.  There is a wide range of healthy options, from beef or chicken tikka or tandoori, and can be prepared with oil or light margarine instead of heavy butter or ghee. Curries can also have a vegetable base instead of a meat base, making them significantly healthier. Indian cuisine has plenty of vegetarian options, as well.

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Japanese

Japanese men and woman have a life expectancy on average 4 to 6 years longer than Americans.  They also have the lowest obesity rate at just 3%. Japanese cuisine is full of low-calorie foods that are both delicious and filling. Each item is served in a small bowl or on a small plate, so there is no overloading onto big plates. This helps to slow down the eating process, allowing for food to digest and fullness to register more accurately.  Over eating is very uncommon. I was told this by an old Japanese friend that they practice what is called, “hara hachi bu” which means “eat until 80% full.” Because of these practices, Japanese people consume 25% fewer calories in a day than the average American. Japanese cuisine relies heavily on rice and mixed vegetables. Everything from bamboo shoots, beets, burdock, carrots, eggplant, green beans, green peppers, lettuce, lotus root, onions, red bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes. Different types of seaweed are also very popular. Protein comes mostly from fish. The Japanese only have 2% of the world’s total population but consume 10% of all the fish eaten.  Fatty fishes like fresh mackerel, salmon, and tuna are preferred. They usually use white rice in their foods, but brown rice is acceptable and a little healthier.

Vietnamese

Like Japanese cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine uses a lot of seafood and vegetables. The Vietnamese also cook using broth or waters instead of relying on calorie laden oils and butter. Meals prepared in the traditional way are almost never fried or made with heavy sauces, so overall, they are healthier.  Spices are not flavor enhancers here, but instead are showcased in a dish. Round rice noodles called banh pho, or rice are a delightful balance to the large number of herbs or spices used to prepare a meal. The national dish of Vietnam is called Pho, which is a delicious broth made with rice, vegetable and greens.  Meat is used sparingly so overall the meals have fewer calories.

Californian

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California has a very healthy food culture.  This is so because many cooks in California are embracing fusion cuisine and integrating different cooking traditions and techniques from around the world.  California cuisine is firmly focused on preparing and eating local, seasonal fruits and vegetables. The good news is, we all can eat like this not just in California. Californian cuisine has deep roots in the Mediterranean style of eating, as its traditions are closely tied to the early immigrants to this area. Most of these immigrants came from Italy or Spain. Italian settlers planted various grape varieties from their homelands and introduced breads, pastas, and homemade vegetable sauces to the food culture of the area. Olives were next, with Spanish missionaries planting the first olive orchards in the state. Cooking with heart healthy ingredients while butter and lard are used rarely, if at all.   Some of the more popular dishes include California pizza, which includes toppings like eggs, avocado, and vegetables. Chopped salads are very popular, and are usually topped with fruits, nuts, and avocado and of course the ever-expanding popularity of fish tacos can be accredited to the west coast.

Mediterranean

Many doctors love the Mediterranean diet. It’s simply very good for you. Local ingredients, small portion sizes, and an abundance of different foods to choose from make this cuisine, what is considered by many, the absolute best choice for healthy eating. Mediterranean cuisine includes Greek, French, Israeli, Lebanese and Spanish influences.  The commonality of all these cuisines is their focus on plant foods like beans, fruits, nuts, olive oil, vegetables, and whole grains. Grilled seafood and chicken are very popular choices and they limit their red meat intake to a few times a month. Even though Bread is an important part of the diet, it’s usually whole grain. Breads are dipped in seasoned olive oil. Nuts are a popular heart healthy snack in the Mediterranean diet, with natural peanut butter being included in that. Spices and herbs are used to add flavor to food, but salt is uncommon.

Thanks!

Gerry


Blend of Hope

This blend was specifically created with 20 different Herbs and Spices To help the body fight carcinogens and free radicals.  It is a very flavorful blend that tastes great on everything you put it on and it is SALT FREE!

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