By: Annie Corapi – Health.com
The Good: Dark leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, beans high in fiber, fish rich in omega-3, olive oil, and lentils are just some staples found in a traditional Mediterranean-style diet. These rich ingredients help strengthen the immune system, and reduce the risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer by 25 percent. Another plus? These foods help with weight loss.
A meal consisting of grilled fish, greens, and olive oil and garlic provides anti-inflammatory and blood-pressure-lowering effects.
The Bad: Avoid spanakopita (spinach pie), as it is butter and calorie-heavy.
The Good: Don’t live in California? No worries. The California Fresh diet consists of simply prepared dishes made from seasonal and local foods. Locally grown foods may not only taste better, but they might also contain more nutrients since produce shipped across the country can lose flavor and essential vitamins.
The Bad: Protect your waist by finding healthier alternatives to flavor veggie-based dishes other than high-fat cheese.
The Good: Instead of relying heavily on frying and coconut-based sauces to flavor up dishes, Vietnamese cuisine relies more on herbs to help add pizazz. Herbs not only add flavor, they’re also great for treating and fighting health issues. In addition, vegetables, seafood and cooking methods that incorporates water or broth instead of oils are also staples of Vietnamese cuisine. The next time you order pho, think about the ingredients and their health benefits.
The Bad: Beware of those fatty short ribs found on many Vietnamese menus.
The Good: Eat until you’re 80 percent full. This is a diet rule practiced in Japan, but practicing this alone won’t make your body healthy. In addition to this rule, Japanese cuisine includes a variety of healthy ingredients such as green tea (rich in anti-oxidants), vegetables (rich in calcium), seaweed (rich in iodine), seafood (rich in omega-3), and shitake mushrooms (iron, potassium, zinc, copper and folate). Another great staple are whole-soy foods such as tofu, edamame, miso and tempeh.
The Bad: Watch out for white rice. Opt for brown rice instead
The Good: Spices play an important role in many Indian dishes. Some include red chilies, ginger, turmeric, and a mixture of spices called garam masala.
What’s also great about these spices? They may help fight off cancer. In particular, turmeric (found in many curries) helps combat Alzheimer’s, and it may have anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
Lentils also stand out as a healthy ingredient, as they are rich in fiber, folate, magnesium, and helps stabilize blood sugar.
The Bad: Opt out of ordering those samosas and watch out for curries containing a lot of cream and butter.
The Good: Ingredient stand-outs and winners include tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, oregano, and parsley. Tomatoes contain an ingredient, called lycopene, which may help avoid and ward off breast cancer. Herbs found in Italian dishes, including garlic, contain vitamins A and C. And olive oil is good for combating heart disease, lowering cholesterol, as well as burning belly fat.
The Bad: Authentic Italian cuisines typically use parmesan or other hard cheeses. Beware of melted cheese and American-style dishes, such as double-cheese pizza. These are high in fat and calories.
Ever heard of that diet practice of eating smaller portions of food? The Spanish have a tradition of doing just that (called tapas, or small plates of food).
Like the cuisines mentioned previously, Spanish dishes also include seafood, vegetables, and olive oil. Eating smaller portions throughout the day has been shown to help with weight loss and overall healthier eating habits, and these healthy Spanish ingredients further increase that.
The Bad: Be cautious of tapas menus in the U.S. Some may contain foods you want to avoid, such as fried food and fatty sausages.
The Good: Authentic Mexican cuisine consists of beans, soups, and tomato-based sauces that can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Plus, foods that are digested slowly (e.g. beans), and are found in many Mexican dishes, have been shown to lower blood sugar and help prevent Type 2 diabetes.
The Bad: Watch your queso dip indulgence! Portion/proportion is key.
The Good: Fruits, veggies, and high-protein grains stand out among the many diverse and cultural groups found within the 12 countries that make up South America. Healthy stand outs include legumes and quinoa. If you’re looking to avoid the not-so-healthy South American steaks, ceviche is also a healthy alternative to that, as it consists of a variety of healthy seafood, flavors, and ingredients.
The Bad: Watch out for fried foods found on many Argentine and Brazilian restaurant menus such as sausage, bananas, and yams.
The Good: You might be thinking Pad Thai or Pad See Ew. Think more along the lines of a soup called Tom Yung Gung. Made with shrimp, coriander, lemongrass, and a variety of herbs and spices, Tom Yung Gung has been found to be 100 times more effective at hindering cancerous-tumor growth than other antioxidants, according to researchers.
Additionally, Thai spices, such as ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass have medicinal capabilities to help with digestion, anti-inflammation, and colds.
The Bad: Not all soups are as healthy as Tom Yung Gung. Keep your calorie and saturated fat intake low by steering clear of soups containing coconut milk.