Throughout the world our food habits help to define the culture of different locations. As such, certain cuisines are pinpointed to specific countries and regions. These regional diets often have characteristics that are present in a lot of their foods and this forms a reputation for that local cuisine.
A time existed where Chinese people solely ate Chinese food, Japanese people solely ate Japanese food and British people solely ate British food. Fortunately for us that is no longer the case and we are free to mix and match with the sorts of foods that we eat everyday. So Monday might be the night for a curry, whereas Thursday might be when you opt for Italian.
Certain regional diets are considered healthier than others for all different reasons. One might be closely associated with reducing cholesterol, while another might be known for using a small amount of dairy products. The point is that if we can identify certain regional diets that provide more health benefits than others then we should be able to incorporate more of those foods into what we eat.
So let’s take a look at a few regional diets that exist:
The first of the three main oriental diets that I am going to start with is probably the most popular. Now just to be clear, I am talking about food prepared in a similar way to what they do in China, not a Chinese takeaway – there is a key difference.
Oriental cuisine tends to rely heavily on rice and vegetables and puts less emphasis on protein than we tend to in the Western world. Wholegrain rice is a fantastic source of fibre and by stir frying vegetables a lot of their vitamins are retained, rather than cooked away when boiled or roasted. Chinese cuisine also rarely uses dairy products and therefore avoids a lot of the saturated fats that we get from things like milk and cheese.
This oriental cuisine is growing in popularity over here in Britain, especially with restaurants such as Yo Sushi popping up all over the place. The regional diet of Japan is similar to China’s in its use of rice and vegetables but has its differences too. Japanese food is usually high in omega 3 fatty acids that come from their comparatively high use of fish. Most sushi dishes incorporate sashimi (raw fish) that provide a lot of the healthy fats that we need.
Green tea is something else that is growing in popularity over here and we have the Japanese to thank for that too. One thing to be wary of with Japanese cuisine though is their use of soy sauce, which if not monitored can provide dangerous levels of sodium.
If you hadn’t guessed it already, the third oriental cuisine I want to discuss is Thai. Again, like its oriental cousins, Thai food uses a lot of vegetables and rice in its meals to make up for the relatively low usage of meat. Thai food is generally considered to be particularly healthy because of its use of broths rather than oils and its utilisation of steamed vegetables that are low in fat and retain almost all of their vitamins.
Unlike the Chinese and Japanese cuisines, Thai food tends to use more dairy products. For example coconut milk is often used to create the Thai curries that everybody seems to love here in the UK. This can potentially increase the amount of saturated fat in the diet if you aren’t careful with how much you are choosing to use.
We have our own regional diets here in the west too and the Mediterranean diet is probably the most known one that exists. It is renowned for its use of grains, legumes and fresh fruit and vegetables that have been shown to lower levels of cholesterol and help improve key functions, such as digestion.
Well sourced ingredients like tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic are all synonymous with Mediterranean cuisine and are thought to deliver the benefits associated with the diet. It is always best to opt for the sauces that are made with these ingredients, rather than cream or cheese based ones that are generally high in saturated fats.
Countless other regional diets exist, including the Mexican, Nordic and French diet, that all have their own individual reputation. The thing to remember is that no cuisine will be ultimately good or ultimately bad for us and therefore it is our job to identify the parts of the regional diet that we want and ignore those foods that we do not.