Diet Secrets from Around the World

What other cultures can teach us about keeping down the pounds

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD

The Mediterranean diet. The Asian diet. The French women have their own diet, too. When it comes to weight control, it sometimes seems as if every culture on the planet has the answer -- except us!

As our collective girth steadily grows -- and with it, our risks for heart disease, stroke, and even some cancers -- experts say it's time to sit down at the international dinner table with something more than dessert on our minds.

"There is no real mystery as to why Americans are gaining weight. We have a body that needs roughly 2,200 calories a day to survive, and a food industry that insists on producing and pushing 3,700 calories a day. Do the math and you'll see what's going wrong," says Steven Jonas, MD, PhD, a professor of preventive medicine at State University of New York at Stonybrook, and author of 30 Secrets of the World's Healthiest Cuisines.

But what kind of food is the rest of the world eating that we're not? And, more important, what are we eating that's contributing to our problems? If you're about to jump up and shout, "Desserts, pasta, white bread, fast food!" -- not so fast, the experts say.

If you examine the global pantry item by item, you may be surprised to learn that diets all over the world contain pretty much the same foods. The choices, whether you're in Madrid, Spain or Minnesota, or Provencal or Pasadena, basically much consist of meat, poultry, fish, dairy, grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.