Have you ever wondered why Japanese women all appear to be ageless, gliding through Earth, slim and ethereal, like they knew the secret of forever beauty? Have you admired the feminine, curvy and healthy bodies of French women, or the suntanned, toned shape of the Spanish? Have you ever tried to compare the dinner plates of all these nations with yours, figuring that the difference in body shapes might be connected with the variation and calorie content of the food on that plate? Well, if you haven’t, let me give you a helping hand.
If you look at the menu of an average American, you will find that the majority of their diet relies on heavily processed meals, canned, frozen, ready-made courses which don’t even remember what natural food looks like. There are a lot of preservatives and refined carbs added, and one can just wonder why on earth is added sugar needed for a piece of sausage.
In my mind, a sausage consists of meat and spices. When I went to Spain, I was positively surprised that in their chorizo there are actually only these ingredients present. If I pick up a pack of sausage in America (or likewise, in the UK), I will find 10 different E-s, sugar, gluten, lactose, skin and God knows what else in that poor thing that pretends to be an actual sausage.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
The fact, that the American and British diet mainly consists of pancakes, pasta, bread, chips, sweets and more carbs (even hidden ones, in products that are advertised as “healthy”, like cold cuts or “low fat” yoghurts), all in enlarged portions, results in the highest calorie intake in the world. Studies show that the average calorie-intake of Americans is 3.770 kCal per day, which is more than twice as much as the intake of people on the other end of the list, and a bit more than 1.000 kCal more than the suggested, healthy intake of a fully grown man who does not lead a particularly active lifestyle.
If we accept the simple fact, that extra calories lead to weight gain and decreased calories result in weight loss, it is easy work out the equation. Nations on the top of the fat-list are most likely consuming more calories than needed, and if we compare the studies showing the average calorie intake of countries to the fat-list, we will surely see the connection.
As we discussed earlier, Americans consume the most calories, which is down to their poor choices with regards to their diet and the supply of processed food-imitations in the supermarket. One piece of jam doughnut contains as much calories as five apples, or a green salad with a slice of skinless grilled chicken, but until you can easily work your way through four doughnuts in a heartbeat, and would ask for more, eating four bowls of salad with lean meat would definitely fill you up and you couldn’t think of food for a long while. And this is exactly what the Mediterranean countries do!
On the calorie-consumption list Spain came out as the 30st with an average of 3.270 kCal per day. This is still more than the recommended daily intake but the ingredients are very different from the American ones. The Spanish eat five times a day, and instead of quantity they go for quality: a light breakfast with coffee and orange juice, a slice of bread with jamón (famous Spanish ham) and extra virgin olive oil. A relaxed lunch with soup, meat and rice or potatoes, and a little dessert for guilt. A light dinner, mostly green salad or Gazpacho soup. Two light snacks during the day with fruits or sea food. Everything is local, everything is home-made, food is rich in nutrients and natural ingredients.
The French have a similar principle: they insist on quality as well. They take their time when enjoying their food and don’t deny anything good from themselves, however, they do control their portions! Their average daily calorie intake is 3.550 kCal, still not too low, but quality food prevails junk food any day! The French might eat 4-5 courses in a row, but all of them are tiny portions, arranged on the plate like a piece of art, made from the finest ingredients. French cheese, hearty soups and fresh fish are common choices for a French menu, along with some potatoes or a fresh baguette. I am sure the French would never place a lactose-gluten-sugar-chicken skin-E 423 sausage in their mouth!
And finally, we got to the Japanese. It is a widely known fact that they have the longest life expectancy in the world, and they have every chance to live long in the best health and shape possible. This is not only due to their habit of all generations living together in one big family and providing a loving and caring environment, but also to their eating habits. They consume an average of 2.810 kCal per day, which is a good 1.000 kCal less than the American custom.
Eating less is proven to be one of the most powerful factors on leading a long and healthy life, and if we consider that the Japanese eat small portions of barely-processed, mostly raw, natural food, we cannot wonder why they easily hit 90 without considerable health problems. Their diet consists of vegetables, cooked rice, a lot of fish and sea food, tofu and algae, fruit rather as dessert than a main dish. They eat tiny, beautifully served portions, which allows their brains to realize when they are not hungry anymore. They usually stop eating when they are 80% full, so they will not get tired after a meal and can keep their calories down.
We can conclude that eating less is definitely not only for people with an eating disorder. We must not go into extremes of course, but we can survive on much less calories than you could imagine, and as a matter of fact, we ONLY survive if we eat less than we do now. If we swap processed, sugary food to something more natural, we are already on the right path. Let’s learn from other nations, make a French Monday, a Japanese Tuesday.. We will be surprised and very pleased with the result: getting to know new cultures and flavours, and also fitting into our teenage jeans again. 😉