We are a country known for our mac and cheese, buffalo wings and corn dogs, none of which spells healthy. This holds true for our everyday food consumption patterns. It comes as no surprise that a recent study of good and bad diets around the world placed USA in the list of countries with the worst diets, and the highest intake of junk food.
Published in the Lancet Global Health Journal, the study also made a surprising revelation that several low-income nations, like Chad and Mali, scored highest for their food. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from them. Here’s taking a look at the top five countries and cuisines:
This African country has more than 140 different ethnic groups that have diverse diets. Even with this diversity, they share a certain commonality when it comes to food. They consume a thick porridge called boule, prepared with healthy grains such as maze, millet and sorghum. They also eat a lot of local produce like okra, dried pimento, dates, guavas and mangoes. They have market days, where villages gather together to buy or sell their harvest. Basically, they thrive on fresh, not processed food.
2. Sierra Leone
Yet another African country, Sierra Leone is known for its rich food culture. They are one of the biggest producers of groundnut, and have a special groundnut stew that’s recognized as the country’s national dish. Right from their local stalls to up-market restaurants, they all serve rice and seafood dishes mixed with fat-burning spicy sauces.
Their cuisine is all about fresh, local produce. Foods like rice, sorghum, millet and fonio (a fine-grained cereal found in Africa) are common staples. These grains are usually served with meat, fish or vegetable-based sauce. They too, have a popular grain porridge called the bouille, which is eaten for breakfast. Another local specialty is a drink called djablani, which is a juice made from hibiscus, ginger, or the fruit of the baobab tree.
The average Gambian home consumes white rice with various kinds of spicy sauces. Dormada, which is a type of groundnut stew, is a national favorite in this county. You can find seafood in abundance here. Their cuisine also compromises traditional drinks like baobab juice, wonjo juice and palm wine, all naturally prepared and are very nutritious.
Although the Uganda cuisine is influenced by the Indian, English, Arab and Asian cuisines, they use a lot of home-grown, local harvest. Produce like plantains, sweet potatoes, corn, beans and cassava are quite popular here. Like most African countries, they have a traditional porridge dish called ugali made of solidified maize and served with groundnuts, beans and meat. Crunchy, deep fried insects (said to be rich in protein) are a popular street food here.
These countries were deemed as the best, in terms of a healthy diet based on three diet patterns. The first was based on 10 healthy food items including fruit, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, milk, total polyunsaturated fatty acids, fish, omega-3s, and dietary fiber. The second was based on seven unhealthy items like unprocessed meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened drinks, saturated fat, trans fat, dietary cholesterol, and salt. And the third was an overall diet pattern based on all the 17 food groups.
After analyzing the food of each of these countries, it was clear that natural foods and traditional cooking methods work best to provide optimum health.