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Health Secrets from Around the World

By Whitney Greer

There are several places in the world where rates of chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer are very low. According to Yahoo Health, in addition, many of the inhabitants of these areas have genetic or environmental factors that should put them at higher—not lower—risk for these illnesses.

So what are the secrets of some of the world’s healthiest people?

Copper Canyon, Mexico: Diabetes
Although rates of type 2 diabetes are soaring at an alarming rare in Mexico—and the US—this lifestyle-related disease is almost unknown among the more than 50,000 Tarahumara Indians who live in Copper Canyon. Yet the Tarahumara Indians are close genetic relatives of the Pima Indians of the US, who have the highest rates of type 2 in the world.

Surprisingly, the Tarahumara Indians eat a high-carb diet, but it’s based on unrefined carbs, such as hand-ground tortillas, beans, and corn. This combination of foods appears to lower the glycemic index of the carbs, while herbs and spices in the tribe’s diet—including cinnamon, cloves, parsley, garlic, and mustard greens—also have beneficial effects on blood sugar.

Cameroon, West Africa: Cancer
In the West African village of Ntui, both colon cancer and other bowel disorders are rare. One key reason is that the villagers’ diet is high in fiber and low in meat, the most protective eating plan. A recent study by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research reported that if we ate more fiber—and less red meat—more than 64,000 cases of cancer cases would be prevented each year.

A study of more than 400,000 people linked a high-fiber diet to longer life, as well as reduced risk for fatal cardiovascular disease, infections, and respiratory disorders.

Crete: Heart Disease
A landmark 40-year study launched in 1958 found that of the seven European countries studied, men who enjoyed the best bealth and longevity lived in 11 villages in the island of Crete, which is the birthplace of the heart-protective Mediterranean diet.

But which foods make this diet so beneficial? Extra virgin olive oil contains powerful antioxidants that combat free radical damage, while Omega-3 rich seafood has an anti-clotting effect.

Cretans also eat high-fiber stone-ground bread, often dipped in wine or olive oil and vinegar, wild greens packed with micronutrients, legumes, and for dessert, yogurt drizzled with honey.

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