International Cuisines to Choose When You Want to Eat Healthy

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  •     Thanks to some “foodie” friends, I’ve started exploring different types of cuisine during the past 15 years. I like to go to restaurants to try signature dishes so I can understand the flavor combinations, but then try to cook them on my own. But now that Dad’s living at my house, I have to anticipate the tastes and health issues of my 85-year-old culinary guinea pig.
        So what types of cuisine are the healthiest? Thanks to (and posted on, we have feedback on what are the healthiest cuisines. Here’s a recap, including suggestions of links to chefs who have recipes that feature healthy versions of the suggested cuisine when I know of them:

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    • Greek cuisine - Mediterranean diets continue to be pushed by the medical community because of the dark leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, olive oil, fish, beans, and grains. Harvard University researchers have found that eating a Mediterranean diet is linked with a 25% decrease in risk of death from heart disease and cancer. In addition, Greeks eat small plates of food (called meze). If you’re interested in learning more about this cooking style, check out recipes by Cat Cora, a Greek American who is a star on the Food Network.
    • California cuisine – This type of cuisine focuses on seasonal, local foods that are simply prepared. Fruits and vegetables purchased from a farmer’s market or farm assist the body in fighting off disease, and are naturally low-calorie and nutrient-rich. If you’re interested in exploring this type of cuisine, check out Alice Waters, who started Chez Panisse in Berkley, California and who has been an advocate of this type of cooking. Another person who has recipes to check out is Deborah Madison, who has been an advocate for the United States farmers markets.
    • Vietnamese cuisine - This type of cuisine includes fresh herbs, lots of vegetables and seafood, as well as cooking techniques that use water or broth instead of oils. The cuisine relies less on frying and heavy coconut-based sauces and places more emphasis on herbs such as cilantro, mint, Thai basil, star anise, and red chili for flavoring.
    • Japanese cuisine – This cuisine includes yams, green tea, bok choy, seaweed, seafood, shiitake mushrooms, and whole-soy foods. This food often uses steaming and stir-frying as the preparation method. In addition, Okinawa’s stop eating when they are 80% full.
    • Indian cuisine – This cuisine includes spices such as turmeric, ginger, red chilies, and garam masala. This cuisine also utilizes yogurt and lentils. A great chef to help you learn about Indian food is Madhur Jaffrey, who has multiple cookbooks available. A friend also gave me the cookbook, “5 Spices, 50 Dishes: Simple Indian Recipes Using Five Common Spices,” which is a great introduction to easy and tasty Indian food. Or you can check out the new show “Aarti’s Party” on the Food Network to learn how to slowly incorporate Indian flavors into your food.
    • Italian cuisine – Tomatoes, olive oil, garlic oregano, parsley and basil are hallmarks of this cuisine. Parmesan or another hard cheese is grated on foods to boost the flavor A great way to explore Italian cuisine is trying some recipes created by Food Network star and cookbook author Giada de Laurentiis, who grew up in Italy.
    • Spanish cuisine - Small plates of food, called tapas, are traditional in Spanish cooking. These cuisine features fresh seafood, vegetables and olive oil. You may want to look up Mario Batali’s work in this area. Famed for his Italian cooking, Batali and friends such as Gwyneth Paltrow and New York Times food writer Mark Bittman explored Spanish cuisine on a cooking show. (Note: I haven’t tried any of the recipes, but plan to eventually).
    • Mexican cuisine – Authentic Mexican food focuses on beans, soups and tomato-based sauces. Slowly-digest carbohydrates in Mexican food (such as beans and freshly ground corn) may lower blood sugar and provide protection from type 2 diabetes. To learn more about this authentic version, check out Rick Bayless, who runs popular Chicago restaurants and who has a PBS show on Mexican cuisine.
    • South American cuisine – This cuisine includes a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables and high-protein grains. Instead of huge steaks that are featured in parts of South America, try ceviche.
    • Thai cuisine – Many common Thai spices provide healthy boosts. For instance, Thai spices include: ginger, which aids digestion; turmeric, which is an anti-inflammatory; and lemongrass, which has been used in Eastern medicine to treat colds and ease stomach issues. I’ve included a link to a blog for an excellent Thai restaurant, Thai Fresh, in Austin, Texas. The owner/chef often provides excellent recipes to try on her blog.

         Trying new cuisines can be fun! Explore new foods and let them help you be healthier! And do you have any other suggested resources for any of these types of cuisine? If you do, please share!

Published On: September 08, 2010