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National Vegetarian Week: Why Are We Eating Meat? Part 2

THE GOOD STUFF: National Vegetarian Week is happening now

Food Impact: A global perspective:

30 June 2014 saw the broadcast of a Channel 4 television documentary, The World’s Best Diet. Show hosts Jimmy Doherty and Kate Quilton collaborated with leading nutritionists scoring countries on their best and worst foods and its impact on their nation. Not only did they analyse countries and groups on their food habits, but also their lifestyle. Based on a league table compiled by nutritionists, countries and population groups were assessed by rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, diet-related cancers, alcohol intake, cultural attitudes to foods, nutritional indicators and life expectancy. The top 10 were:

1. Iceland
2. Italy
3. Greece
4. Seventh Day Adventists
5. Japan
6. Sweden, Norway, Denmark (joint)
7. The Kuna Indians (Panama)
8. France
9. Spain
10. The Netherlands

The documentary was consistent with current research findings advocating the benefits of a diet rich in fibre, fruit, vegetables, lower in red meat, sugar, saturated fat and processed foods. The environment in which food is eaten was also identified as important.

The coveted title won by Iceland was clearly not just about diet, but a result of a holistic lifestyle, including the benefits of an optimal living environment. It was noted that Iceland has the lowest pollution levels and cleanest environment. There was also a mention about their unique gene pool, higher levels of longevity and lower levels of lifestyle disease. Along with their ‘balanced diet’ and superior environment, they had the highest male life expectancy in the world, with men expected to live an average of 81 years.

Incidentally, other research shows Iceland ranking among the top 10 most happiest nations in the world (at number nine) and number one as the world’s most peaceful nation, identified on the Global Peace Index.

While we can’t all move to Iceland, perhaps we can learn a lesson about the way they live. It appears that on balance, Iceland has it all – and that’s why they won.

The World’s Best Diet also covered England's emergence at number 34, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland trailed at 35, 36 and 37. The Marshall Islands in last place at 50 and Mexico, placed at 49, had the highest rates of processed foods, obesity and diabetes. Food habits, lifestyle and health outcomes are clearly linked.

With the rich variety of natural foods from the Caribbean and Africa easily accessible here in the UK, there is little excuse for us not to enjoy a healthy diet. With less consumption of processed foods, a greater uptake of fresh fruit and vegetables, more exercise and less stress, perhaps we may begin to see an improvement in our general wellbeing.

To read part 1 of this piece, click here.

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