Ranking the Healthiest Countries in 2019 and How They Got There
Move over Italy, because Spain just became the healthiest country in the world! According to the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, Spain was just ranked at the top of the list, followed by former #1 Italy and Japan. The Bloomberg Index ranks these countries based on aspects like life expectancy, and docks points for high levels of obesity or alcoholism. Let’s take a look at some of the healthiest countries in the world and more importantly, how they prioritized diet, physical activity and other methods to get there.
Whether it’s all the salsa dancing or football, Spain has taken the crown as the healthiest country in the world. With a Mediterranean diet rich in fish, meat, vegetables and healthy fats, Spain’s citizens are expected to have the greatest longevity by 2040. Issues like binge drinking and alcoholism are surprisingly low and fast food has not taken to Spain as it has in other Schengen countries.
It doesn’t hurt that Spanish healthcare is one of the best in the world too. Spain has used a universal healthcare system to great success, providing its citizens with all necessary services and only charging a small co-pay. Other aspects that contribute to this high quality of life include great weather, a low-stress lifestyle and lots and lots of walking.
While Italy is usually recognized as the healthiest country in the world, it’s going to have to settle for second place this year. However, that’s nothing to be disappointed about as its citizens enjoy a high quality of life and health. Again, a Mediterranean diet seems to be at the center of their excellent health. While Italy is known for its amazing wine, Italians have a completely different attitude towards drinking and alcoholism is nowhere near as common here as it is in countries like the USA.
While it may be only a small part, US citizens that relocated to Italy have stated that they are sleeping better, are more active from walking instead of driving and despite admittedly eating more pasta, pizza and gelato, feel healthier in diet as well. Some have attributed this to the significant amount of tomatoes and other antioxidant-rich vegetables that are present in the cuisine.
Japan is also regularly recognized as one of the healthiest countries in the world, and just up until recently, was acclaimed for having the highest number of residents above 100. Many businesses put extra care into the physical and mental health of their employees, with some allowing them to nap during the workday to reduce stress. In addition, Japan has long resisted the influx of fast food chains in an attempt to keep processed foods from poisoning their diets.
With a diet low in carbs and saturated fats and high in nutrients and antioxidants, Japan boasts one of the healthiest and most unique diets in the world. With rice, fish and pickled vegetables being among the staples of Japanese cuisine, it’s no wonder why they are consistently among the top three healthiest countries in the world.
While Sweden doesn’t follow a Mediterranean diet like Italy or Spain, its residents have an almost equally healthy and balanced diet. Swedish cuisine is usually low in starchy carbs and high in organic vegetables and clean proteins like local fish. Additionally, cooking at home is a major part of the culture and is taught to children at a young age. As a result, the fast-food epidemic has not taken to Swedish children as it has in the United States. In fact, Swedes consume the least amount of fast food in the world.
Similarly, their access to universal healthcare, combined with shorter working weeks, makes for a much happier population. Moreover, Swedes are known for their affinity to the outdoor exercise and adventure (easy to do when your country features some of the most beautiful destinations in the world). Many studies have linked overall happiness to a longer and more fulfilling life, so it’s hardly surprising Sweden is up here amongst the healthiest countries in the world.
As another Scandanavian country, Norway boasts many similarities to Sweden in terms of and outdoor lifestyle, work demands and overall happiness. Also, access to processed and junk foods is quite low, and the country has high taxes imposed on these products. Similarly, Norway has very low rates of pollution, which obviously impacts overall health.
Almost all Norwegian markets feature organic produce, much of which is grown in an urban environment or delivered daily from local farmers. The Nordic diet is balanced and is famed for reducing blood pressure, improving heart health and cholesterol levels. Also, alcohol and smoking are not as common as other European countries.
Although Switzerland might be known for its chocolate, the lifestyle is actually very healthy. On top of this, the country has universal healthcare that focuses on prevention rather than treatment. Their system focuses heavily on health education at a young age so that people can make more informed decisions about their health. Being next to the Alps, the Swiss enjoy a lifestyle full of outdoor activities and are famed for their climbing and hiking abilities. Like many European countries, the Swiss tend to walk or bike, as opposed to driving or even public transportation. In addition, public events like concerts and professional sports often feature healthy food options, rather than the classic ball game hot dog and soda.
There are plenty of factors that go into making a country healthy, but diet is probably one of the most obvious. As you can see, the Mediterranean diet has pushed a number of countries high up on the list. With an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and healthy fats like olive oil, Mediterranean diets have recently taken the spotlight as the diet most often prescribed by nutritionists and health experts.
As you probably could have guessed before, exercise was also a common thread between the healthiest countries, with walking being the main form of transportation. Also, getting out in nature and allowing your lungs to breath pollution-free air as often as possible seems to be a priority for these nations. It might be time to start thinking about adopting these aspects into your own lifestyle!