7 Healthy Diets From Around the World

Assortment of healthy food ingredients.
Healthy diets from around the world focus on fresh, nutrient-rich foods that form the cornerstone of lasting health and vitality. (Image: hlphoto via Shutterstock)

Statistics from the World Obesity Atlas show that over 38 percent of the global population is overweight or obese because of unhealthy diets. International studies also predict that by 2035, over half of the world’s population will either be obese or overweight. This obesity epidemic is estimated to cost the global economy around 4 trillion dollars.

So what can people do? Obesity is a multifaceted condition influenced by lifestyle, diet, genetics, environment, and even your gut microbiome. Sadly, being obese increases a person’s chances of getting diseases like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer, and contributes to lower life expectancy.

Some people are more likely to become obese than others, and studies have shown that some countries have a lower risk of obesity than others. So, what are these countries doing right? Read on to explore the healthiest diets from around the world.

Healthy diets from around the world 

1. Okinawan diet from Japan

For years, the Okinawan island group had the highest life expectancy in the world. However, the average lifespan of Okinawans has come down in the past two decades compared to other Japanese districts. Still, because of Japanese healthy eating habits, Japan has the lowest rates of obesity in the developed world and the third highest life expectancy — after Hong Kong and Macao.

The diet in Japan focuses on fish, seafood, tofu, seasonal vegetables, and nutrient-rich foods. Their foods also have low saturated fats and are rich in antioxidants. Another factor contributing to health is the small portion sizes on their plates and eating slowly. This helps reduce caloric intake and, in the long run, other chronic health problems.

2. Korean cuisine

Like Japan, South Koreans focus on creating a colorful and flavorful diet. They emphasize seafood, fish, poultry, tofu, and vegetables. The probiotics in fermented foods such as kimchi are also attributed to improving your gut microbiome, nutrient absorption, and immunity. This can help you reduce the risk of getting heart disorders, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

South Koreans focus on creating a colorful and flavorful diet.
South Koreans focus on creating a colorful and flavorful diet. (Image: kongsak sumano via Shutterstock)

3. Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is celebrated because it focuses on whole, unprocessed foods. For instance, traditional Greek food focuses on fruit, whole grains, legumes, veggies, and low amounts of red meat and dairy. 

Besides Greek food, you can try Lebanese, Algerian, Turkish, and Moroccan food. However, not all Mediterranean foods are healthy. Foods like Greek gyros, for example, may be unhealthy if you overindulge.

4. French cuisine

If you are familiar with French foods, you’ll be surprised that French cuisine is on this list. This is called the “French Paradox” because while these foods have high saturated fats, French people have a lower prevalence of obesity and cardiovascular disease compared to people in the U.S.

Interestingly, the French diet is among the healthiest in the world not because of the foods themselves but because of the culture around food. The French seek pleasure from their food, meaning they eat slower, are more selective, and take smaller portions. This helps prevent overeating and aids in digestion.

On the other hand, some cultures tend to focus more on “healthy” foods rather than on enjoying their food. Taking bigger portions of much-touted “healthy” snacks may be more unhealthy than taking sweet foods in small, controlled portions. 

5. Italian diet

Italy is another unlikely country with healthy cuisine because the first foods that pop into your mind when you think of Italy are lasagna, pizza, and pasta. Interestingly, traditional Italian pizza has a thin crust, cooked in a brick oven, and topped with fresh veggies and a few slices of mozzarella cheese. This differs from the greasy, thick-crusted, and meaty-topped pizza people eat in many parts of the world.

The traditional Italian diet isn’t unhealthy because it focuses on fresh, locally sourced fruits and veggies. It also includes whole foods, farro, bread, and healthy fats such as olive oil, which have been associated with lower risks of depression, reduced risk of stroke, and improved heart health. 

6. Indian cuisine

Indian food varies from place to place depending on religion, seasons, and family traditions. However, it primarily emphasizes spices that enhance flavor and color and offer health benefits.

Shrimp in a coconut curry sauce along with yellow rice and lentils, naan, and a salad.
Indian food primarily emphasizes spices that enhance flavor, color, and offer health benefits. (Image: hlphoto via Shutterstock)

Indian food in most places also caters to vegetarians and vegans and can be the go-to cuisine if you want to move away from a meat-rich diet. However, limit foods with saturated fats like ghee or full-fat coconut milk if you want to reduce your intake of saturated fats. 

7. Ethiopian diet

Traditional Ethiopian foods focus on root veggies, string beans, lentils, and jalapenos. The country boasts nutrient-rich and fiber-packed foods. One of the most famous Ethiopian meals is injera, a flatbread made of teff flour. Teff is one of the smallest grains in the world, but it comes with excellent benefits, such as high amounts of protein, calcium, and fiber. 

Besides the famed injera, you can also cook teff grains in water like rice. Ethiopians eat injera almost every day, and since it’s a fermented food, it also comes with great benefits for your gut microbiome.

Other healthy foods from Africa include foods from West African countries such as Chad, Mali, and Gambia. They include millet, yams, baobab fruit, fermented fruits, papaya, and more.


Most traditional meals around the world predominantly feature plant-based ingredients. These include veggies, nuts, seeds, tubers, plant oils and herbs, grains, flatbreads, and legumes. Seafood and meat are only occasional additions. 

Remember, if you want to adopt healthy meals from different countries, keep the cultural setting in mind. These include the food portion sizes, the manner of eating, the ingredients used, and how the food is prepared traditionally. This will help you avoid the greasy and sugary adaptations of traditional foods where the nutrient-rich benefits are lost to appeal to most people’s palates.

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  • Nathan Machoka

    Nathan is a writer specializing in history, sustainable living, personal growth, nature, and science. To him, information is liberating, and it can help us bridge the gap between cultures and boost empathy. When not writing, he’s reading, catching a favorite show, or weightlifting. An admitted soccer lover, he feeds his addiction by watching Arsenal FC games on weekends.