The top 10 world’s healthiest countries have been named, and we’re all wondering, “What are they doing, and how can we do it?”
The 2019 Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index grades the countries based on life expectancy and considers factors like state of the environment, access to clean water, tobacco use, and obesity. So, what’s the secret sauce for these 10 countries? Many of them share a diet high in fish, veggies, and good fats and encourage an active, outdoor lifestyle. Let’s break that down:
A diet high in good-quality fats.
The researchers behind the top 10 list suggest that these stats could have to do with a well-loved diet shared by many of the top contenders: one high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado.
This diet closely resembles the Mediterranean diet, a popular diet in Spain, Italy, and Israel that research has linked with protecting against cardiovascular disease. The Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory and includes foods packed with antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids and is often recommended for patients with diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and depression.
The Japanese diet is also similar to the Mediterranean diet in that it includes lots of veggies, fish, fruits, and grains and has been associated with reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular complications. The diet in Iceland and Norway, which some call the “Nordic diet,” promotes more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and seafood, which a study suggests could increase weight-loss and reduce blood pressure.
We know diet is only one component of our health, but with six of the 10 countries following diets that closely resemble the Mediterranean diet, this could be something to consider.
Opt for biking or walking.
Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, and Singapore also tout healthy diets and share a similar sentiment of love for the outdoors and an active lifestyle.
People take advantage of the walkability of many of Switzerland’s cities, and if they’re not in walking distance of their destination, they can easily rent a bike and hop on one of the bike-friendly routes. This could explain its ranking, as a recent report from the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests increasing daily movement, whether it’s walking or biking to work, could improve metabolic rate and promote weight loss and better heart health.
Following in Switzerland’s footsteps is Sweden, one of the many Scandinavian countries where people take advantage of the many walking and bike paths. One of Sweden’s main principles protected by the law is “freedom to roam,” and with an abundance of city bikes and accessible routes, they make it easy. Last but not least, Australia is all about an active lifestyle, and with some of the best surfing in the world and long, beautiful coastal walks, we can’t blame them for wanting to spend time outdoors. Singapore is quickly climbing the list as not too long ago Singaporeans were rated the world’s fastest walkers with Spain and Japan not far behind.
Spend more time in nature.
Getting outside, whether it’s walking in the park, hiking in the woods, or spending time by the ocean, has been associated with a stronger immune system, reduced muscle pain, a more balanced microbiome, and greater happiness. All of the top 10 healthiest countries (besides Switzerland) border a body of water. We can’t be sure it’s the ocean that does the trick, but with all the research on the therapeutic benefits of nature, access to water could be a factor. Even though Switzerland is landlocked, the city places great emphasis on outdoor activity (they promote biking in the winter months!).
While the debate between whether diet, exercise, or time outdoors is most important for health won’t be settled today, the top 10 healthiest countries have us pretty inspired to eat better, move more, and get outdoors as much as possible.