Everyone wants to live a long, healthy life, but some countries are doing much better than others achieving this goal. America is ranked the 35th healthiest country, which is not very impressive, but also not the worst.
From Spain to Luxembourg to Singapore, this is a list of the diets of the 20 healthiest nations. Perhaps the US has some things to learn from how these nations eat and live.
Top 20 Countries with the Healthiest Diets
Here are the top 20 healthiest countries in the world, according to the World Population Review.
Most Popular Food: Paella
Spain comes in first as the healthiest country in the world. Their most popular dish is Paella, a mixture of Spanish rice, seafood, and sauce that seems to keep them living well and having fun.
Spain’s residents generally live off a Mediterranean diet rich in omega-3, fats, and protein that help reduce the risk of heart diseases, dementia, and even cancer. A Mediterranean diet focuses on the healthy fats and proteins found in olive oil, fish, nuts, beans, and grains. All of these foods have been thought to contribute to life expectancy.
Spain has a long life expectancy and a healthy population partly due to its Mediterranean diet and proximity to fresh seafood. But many believe the attitude of Spanish people to enjoy life contributes to their healthy way of living.
Most Popular Food: Pizza
Pizza probably doesn’t seem like it’s integral to a well-rounded, healthy diet. But food is such a valued part of Italian culture that everything is made with the freshest ingredients and sourced locally.
Their respect for food prevents them from eating processed or packaged foods. Italians have lower blood pressure and cholesterol than most nations because their diet consists mainly of vegetables, olive oil, pasta, lean meats, and fresh fish.
Most Popular Food: Icelandic Hot Dog
A hot dog doesn’t sound very healthy, but the real key to Icelandic health is the way they eat their meals. They always have a huge breakfast, sitting down, at home. No granola bars while running to the car or a cup of coffee on the train; they always have a real breakfast.
Their diet consists of a lot of fresh seafood and dairy. The government’s efforts towards sustainable energy resulted in cleaner food too.
Most Popular Food: Sushi and Sashimi
It is no surprise Japan made it on the list. Nations that consume large quantities of fish appear to have longer life expectancies than landlocked countries. Japan’s most popular food by far is sushi and sashimi. Raw fish is especially rich in omega-3 and other proteins that contribute to heart health.
The biggest key to Japan’s healthy citizens is the small portions they eat. Unlike Americans, Japan’s residents consume moderate portions. Moderate portions combined with their healthy, fish-diet has gotten them to the fourth healthiest country in the world.
Most Popular Food: Fondue
Oddly, Swiss people mainly consume different types of bread, cheeses, and other dairy products. But they don’t eat processed or packaged foods with high sugar content, which reduces the country’s overall risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart diseases.
Swiss meals are on a rigid schedule. Swiss people do not snack, so they don’t consume those excess calories that come along with mindless munching.
Most Popular Food: Meatballs
Like the Japanese, the Swedish diet focuses on moderation in every aspect of eating. Rather than starchy, carb-loaded foods, they eat large quantities of organic vegetables and cold-water fish.
They also put a strong emphasis on spending time outdoors and exercising. In Sweden, exercising is a social activity often done in large groups.
Most Popular Food: Hamburger With Beetroot
Despite Australians’ love for meat and bread, hence the hamburger with beetroot, they hardly consume any processed foods. The lack of processed foods is likely why they are ranked seven on the list of healthiest countries.
The Australian diet consists of fruits, vegetables, and meats, all of which are grown locally and organically. The purity with which Australians eat contributes to their life expectancy, which is longer than in most countries.
Most Popular Food: Satay
Satay is a meat dish served on a skewer and usually accompanied by a peanut sauce. It may seem indulgent, but satay is rich in healthy fats and proteins. Combined with a heart-healthy peanut sauce, this dish is surprisingly good for people.
The Singapore diet mostly consists of poultry, seafood, rice, noodles, dessert, and snacks. Like many other countries on this list, Singapore lacks processed, sugary foods and instead opts for healthier snacks like satay or curry puffs.
Most Popular Food: Smoked Salmon
Any diet rich in seafood delivers a balance of nutrition and protein that will improve one’s longevity and overall health. Specifically, salmon is super high in healthy fats and omega-3.
Norwegians have easy access to fresh fish since they have such a massive coast, but their love of fish isn’t the only reason they made it number nine. The Norwegian government works very hard to make sugary food and processed snacks unappealing. And it seems to work.
The entire nation steers clear of foods with sugar, red meat, and processed ingredients, all of which may increase the risk of chronic dietary-related diseases and shorten life expectancy.
Most Popular Food: Falafel
Coming in at number ten, Israel has a decently healthy population, and their most popular food is falafel. Falafel is made from ground chickpeas to form a cake or ball that is fried. Falafel is high in protein, micronutrients, and fiber. A steady diet that incorporates falafel can lower the risk of heart disease and improve blood sugar levels.
In addition to this nutrient-rich food, Israelites follow a Mediterranean diet, receiving lots of protein and omegas that improve life expectancy. Israel’s health can be completely attributed to their beneficial diet, which statistics show they have the least amount of deaths due to dietary habits.
Most Popular Food: Pancakes (Gromperekichelcher)
The pancakes are only a portion of the typical Luxembourg diet. People in the nation frequently eat red meat, beans, fish, stews, and soups. Their diet isn’t particularly well-balanced or healthy. Nevertheless, they are number 11 on the list.
The reason for Luxembourg making this list is likely their free healthcare, long life expectancy, and flexible doctors. Their diet does not indicate a conscientious attitude towards healthy food.
Most Popular Food: French Onion Soup
The French are known for loving food, but their diets are generally well-balanced and include lots of fish, olive oil, and vegetables. The French eat in several courses, typically an appetizer, entree, salad, dessert, cheese, and coffee at the end. All the courses sound like a hefty amount of food, but each course is relatively small.
The French love their loaves of bread, cheeses, and wines. But the French are all about refined eating, so they never overindulge themselves. Their popular French Onion Soup combines almost all of their favorite ingredients into one dish that is light and low in calories.
Most Popular Food: Schnitzel
Sausages, beef, beans, cheese, dumplings, and fried foods galore are found in Austria. Their typical diet consists of these foods plus their famous pork or chicken schnitzel, a pounded meat dish coated in egg and bread crumbs and fried in oil.
Despite the nation consuming more salt and fatty foods than experts recommend, they still make the list of healthiest countries. The likely cause for their health ranking is their free healthcare that prioritizes all citizens.
Most Popular Food: Rye Bread
Finnish people love that dark, rich flavor of rye bread. It is a staple at most Finnish breakfast tables and is often an accompaniment at dinner too. Much like rye bread, Finnish people are sturdy and healthy, and they have their rich diet of fish to thank for this.
Rye bread itself is linked to potential health benefits such as improved blood sugar, heart health, and digestive health. But the real secret to Finnish longevity and prosperity is fresh fish. Combining the omega-rich protein with hearty root vegetables and, of course, rye bread creates a well-balanced diet.
In addition, Finnish people tend to enjoy long walks and prioritize them. A consistent low-intensity aerobic routine keeps the body exercised but not overexerted.
Most Popular Food: Poffertjes (Pancakes)
Another nation that loves pancakes is the Netherlands. However, these pancakes are different from Luxembourg’s. Their diet relies heavily on legumes and fish, which are wonderful for heart health and low blood pressure.
Dutch people eat in moderation, with the biggest meal being breakfast. A small fraction of the Duch population suffers from obesity, while more than 90% of residents retain healthy weights due to their modest diet.
Most Popular Food: Poutine
The Canadian diet consists of a decent amount of red meat, followed by vegetables, poultry, and fish. Their diet is bursting with protein but lacks a well-balanced diet that should include fruits and other food groups.
Poutine is a dish of french fries smothered in brown gravy and topped with cheese curds; a meal that doesn’t exactly scream ‘health.’ However, it seems Canadians made a concerted effort to improve their health. Red meat consumption has decreased, as well as the consumption of soda and other sugary beverages.
17. South Korea
Most Popular Food: Kimchi
South Korea’s citizens have a long life expectancy and can thank their most popular dish for this in part: kimchi. Kimchi is a dish, often just a topping, of fermented cabbage with other spices. It contains high levels of antioxidants, including beta-carotene, carotenoids, vitamins, flavonoids, and other phenolic compounds.
The South Korean diet consists of an abundance of vegetables, followed by decent portions of fish and legumes, and, finally, low red meat consumption. The use of rice, herbs, and sesame oil in so many dishes contributes to the population’s health.
18. New Zealand
Most Popular Food: Lamb Pie
Like Australia, New Zealand loves its meat and bread, especially when combined into a pie. A steady diet of lamb pies and fish and chips may not seem like the secret to a long life, but New Zealand citizens enjoy an array of proteins while still being one of the healthiest countries in the world.
The secret to their health may be the exorbitant amount of crayfish they consume or their plethora of fresh fruits. But it is likely due to the lack of processed, packaged foods high in sugar.
19. United Kingdom
Most Popular Food: Yorkshire Pudding
Although the United Kingdom made number nineteen on this list, they aren’t revered as a particularly healthy nation. With their most beloved food being a fatty cross between a biscuit and a pudding, it is surprising the UK made this list.
However, the UK is healthier than the United States. The biggest difference in diet between the US and Uk shows itself in pre-packaged foods. The UK leads the charge in healthy packaged foods making it easier for their population to eat well even in a fast-paced world.
So while their diet may not look much different than that of a US citizen, UK residents are supplied with healthier food without sacrificing convenience.
Most Popular Food: Irish Stew
And last on the list of healthiest countries is the Emerald Isle. Ireland appears to be the healthiest nation in Europe, which may surprise some considering they eat mostly meat and potatoes in the form of pie.
But like the UK, their government works to improve the quality of packaged foods, avoid processed foods, and continue to inform the people of the consequences of their dietary choices.
Irish stew is a hearty meal but contains sturdy ingredients that keep Irish citizens healthy. The nation has low cancer rates, which could be attributed to its steady diet of meat and vegetables.
Related: Best Cuisine in the World
While there is no quick trick to living a longer life, there seem to be some special foods that help humans live a little longer on this earth.
Fish is full of healthy fats, protein, and nutrients that enrich the body. Most of the countries on this list utilize fish in their dishes and prioritize seafood.
Taking a hint or two from the healthiest cuisines in the world can help the entire world live better. Some extra vegetables, a piece of fish, and a healthy dose of exercise may be the key to adding a few years to your life.