The Mediterranean diet gets lots of attention in the nutrition world …and for good reason. People who live in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea tend to have long average life spans and low rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Mediterranean cuisine, which features olive oil, whole grains, nuts and vegetables, is certainly a big reason why.

But what if you’ve had your fill of Mediterranean food or want a bit more variety? Based on recent research, the following world cuisines are as healthful as the Mediterranean diet.

New Nordic Diet

In 2008, obesity researcher Arne Astrup, MD, PhD, and chef Claus Meyer teamed up to create a diet based on the traditional foods of northern Europe to address Europe’s rapidly growing obesity problem…and their New Nordic Diet delivered. It is virtually as effective as the Mediterranean diet when it comes to reducing risk for obesity, blood pressure and type 2 diabetes risk, according to academic studies. And Chef Meyer used this diet as the basis of the menu at his restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, named the best in the world by Restaurant magazine in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

The New Nordic Diet doesn’t demand deprivation. Instead, it reduces the odds of overeating by making you feel full on fewer calories. Certain key components of the Nordic Diet closely echo the Mediterranean diet—whole grains, nuts and fatty fish play major roles in both, for example—but the New Nordic Diet is distinct in other ways. Some key components…

Potatoes are high in carbs, but they’re also very high in fiber. Eating high-fiber foods makes people feel full. Potatoes also have potassium, which can reduce blood pressure. Similar: Other root vegetables including beets, carrots and turnips are high in fiber and are featured in the New Nordic Diet as well.

Cabbage is rich in nutrients and fiber but low in calories. It’s often dismissed as boring, but there are plenty of compelling preparation methods. Example: Pickled red cabbage, a traditional side dish in Denmark, has bold flavor.

Berries are a vitamin-rich ingredient to add to breakfasts and desserts in place of less healthful sweetness sources. They even can be used in some savory dishes. Example: Juniper berries are added to some Nordic game stews.

Seaweed likely was consumed by Nordic people in Viking times, but it had fallen out of favor. The New Nordic Diet revives its use—studies suggest that eating seaweed can reduce risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Fermented seaweed also delivers a “meaty” flavor to dishes, potentially replacing red meat.

Canola oil and its close cousin rapeseed oil are among the few cooking oils that can compete with the Mediterranean diet’s olive oil in terms of healthfulness. It has a high content of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, making canola a sort of vegetable “fish oil.” Canola oil is virtually flavorless, so it won’t interfere with the taste of dishes. Helpful: Choose a canola oil that is “cold pressed” and, if possible, organic. Other canola oils can be heavily processed, which removes most of their nutritional value.

Wild game, such as venison, is part of the New Nordic Diet. The meat of wild animals is significantly leaner and better for you than farm-raised meat. When game isn’t available, free-range meats are the next best option. Still, restrict red meat to no more than two servings per week—fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring, are good choices for other meals.

Arne Astrup, MD, PhD, is leader of the department of obesity and nutritional sciences at Denmark’s Novo Nordisk Foundation. Previously, he was a professor and head of the department of nutrition, exercise and sports at University of Copenhagen. He is coauthor of The Nordic Way: Discover the World’s Most Perfect Carb-to-Protein Ratio for Preventing Weight Gain or Regain, and Lowering Your Risk of Disease.

Traditional Mexican Diet

Traditional Mexican cooking features pork and beef—not the proteins people picture when they think “healthy eating.” Yet this cuisine is anti-­inflammatory and can help reduce risk for type 2 diabetes, according to a study led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The traditional Mexican diet—unlike the food served by Mexican restaurants in the US—combines those meats with fresh vegetables…features relatively healthful meat-preparation methods…and is low in added sugars and refined grains. Nutritionist Torie Borrelli explains its key components…

Chili peppers are among the most obvious components of many traditional Mexican dishes—their spiciness makes them hard to ignore. One recent study by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that regular consumption of chili peppers is associated with reductions in cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer mortality and all-cause mortality. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, consider chilis with only mild-to-moderate spiciness, such as the guajillo.

Beans are high in fiber, so they reduce the urge to overeat. Bean consumption also reduces risk for cardiovascular disease, according to numerous studies, including one by Tulane University researchers. The traditional Mexican method of preparing beans is to soak them for many hours—even overnight—then slow cook them in a pot with herbs, spices and beef bones. That slow cooking infuses the beans with lots of flavor, plus rich meatiness from the bone marrow. The long soak time greatly reduces the odds that consuming beans will cause digestive distress.

Avocados are nutrient-rich and high in fiber and antioxidants. Numerous studies have linked them to weight loss and lower risk for heart disease. They’re great sliced up in salads or blended into thick sauces. Satisfying and good for you, guacamole is a real crowd pleaser.

Squash is high in fiber, vitamins and antioxidants and low in calories. Mexican cooking uses numerous squash varieties, including squash blossoms, ­zucchini and butternut, in a range of dishes, including soups and salads.

Cinnamon has strong, antioxidant, anti-­inflammatory and ­antibiotic properties. Some research even suggests that it might help control blood sugar levels. In the traditional Mexican diet, cinnamon is added to foods such as oatmeal and sometimes is stirred into meat dishes, as well as coffee or tea.

Pork and beef usually are prepared using low-heat, slow-cooking methods, such as braising, in traditional Mexican cuisine. This seems to convey fewer health risks than high-heat cooking methods like barbecuing. Also: Cuts of meat containing bone typically are used—the bone’s marrow creates a broth rich in collagen and glucosamine. Collagen is good for our bones and skin, while glucosamine has been linked to reduced inflammation and lower risk for osteoarthritis and type 2 diabetes, according to a Tulane University study. Example: A stew called birria is made from slow-cooked pork, beef or goat served with its braising liquid.

Torie Borrelli is an integrative nutritionist based in San Diego and author of The Mexican Keto Cookbook: Authentic, Big-Flavor Recipes for Health and Longevity, which draws on the recipes of her mother’s Mexican heritage.

The Jiangnan Diet

People of southern China have significantly lower rates of obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease than the people of northern China. Diet is probably a big part of the reason, according to a study by a team of researchers in China and New York’s Icahn School of Medicine. The Jiangnan cuisine of southern China’s ­Yangtze River Delta region is very different from the food served by most Chinese restaurants in the US. Seafood plays a major role, as it does in Mediterranean food—the Jiangnan diet includes fish, shrimp, crab, shellfish, squid and more. Chef Fuchsia Dunlop, who trained in China, shares some other key details…

Cabbage-centric dishes are not only healthful, in Jiangnan cooking, they can be satisfying. Often, a generous amount of cabbage is cooked with a small amount of pork, seafood or another meat in a stir-fry or stew. It takes only a modest amount of meat to create a satiating meal. Another Jiangnan strategy: Cook fresh greens together with flavorful salty ingredients, such as tiny dried shrimp or pickled items.

Pickled mustard greens—and other fermented vegetables and pickled fish—crank up the flavor of light soups and vegetable-focused dishes. They’re salty and pleasantly sour. Packaged pickled mustard greens are available in Asian markets and online.

Tea seed oil, also known as camellia oil, is sometimes described as “the olive oil of the East.” Research suggests it provides many of the same antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits as olive oil. Rapeseed oil is sometimes used as well.

Rice is a staple of the southern ­Chinese diet, but not in northern China, where wheat is more commonly consumed.

Fuchsia Dunlop is a James Beard Award–winning food writer and the first Westerner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine. She is author of Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China.

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