It was really interesting to look at different countries and the food they eat. I was not particularly surprised at the fact that South Korea is considered a healthy country because of all the fish and rice. I also found out that the main reason why it is considered a really healthy country is because it has kimchi that is fermented cabbage. Kimchi has a lot of beneficial properties including probiotics. Also Switzerland is considered healthy because of all the yogurt there that is full of probiotics and no added sugars.
Want to live a long, healthy life? Move to South Korea.
In a study from Imperial College London, published in the journal the Lancet in late February, researchers projected the life expectancy for men and women born in 35 industrialized countries in the year 2030. The study authors used 21 different forecasting models to analyze death rates across various age groups over the past 50-plus years, resulting in predictions that they believe are the most accurate statistics available.
The good news: The study predicts life expectancy will increase in all 35 countries. South Korea is expected to take the top spot for both women and men, with projected life expectancies of 90.8 and 84, respectively.
The bad news: The USA came in dead last in its cohort, with the lowest predicted life expectancy out of all high-income industrialized countries — an average of 83.3 years for women, and 79.5 years for men.
Although the study doesn’t dig deep into why citizens of certain countries can expect longer life spans than others, co-author James Bennett tells The Post that high-ranking countries do have some commonalities, such as access to health care, low smoking rates and healthy diets.
Below, the life-extending staples that keep these top countries ticking.
Bennett cites Korea’s traditional diet as one reason why its citizens are expected to live so long.
That’s thanks in part to kimchee, a popular Korean condiment that’s served with most meals. The fermented vegetable mix is packed with gut-healthy probiotics — which can help your body fight off disease — as well as filling fiber and antioxidants.
Other South Korean staples include bibimbap, a popular dish of rice, vegetables, red pepper paste, egg and a small amount of meat.
“It goes down so easily, and it’s full of healthy foods,” says nutritionist Joshua Rosenthal, founder of NYC’s Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Plus, says Bennett, South Korea’s recent economic growth has made health care more accessible “across the whole population,” leading to “huge gains” in its life expectancy standing.
France isn’t exactly known as a health-food mecca — the country is synonymous with baguettes, croissants and healthy pats of butter. Still, its citizens tend to live long lives, with a projected life expectancy of 88.6 years for women and 81.7 for men for those born in 2030.
“What’s fascinating is that many of the foods that Americans avoid, like foods that are high in carbs or saturated fat, are things you see in a French diet,” says Danielle Rehfeld, a personal chef who specializes in global cuisine.
But the French generally consume foods differently than Americans, opting for smaller portion sizes eaten at mealtimes, rather than snacks or binges.
It also helps that they tend to see meals as social events.
“It’s not just what you’re eating, it’s how you’re eating,” says nutritionist Rosenthal. “If you’re eating while you’re watching TV, you don’t realize how much food you ate — you’re unconscious.”
And staying connected with friends and family has been shown to aid in healthy aging — as does the easy access to health care and social services that the French enjoy.
Japan currently boasts the longest life expectancies at birth — 87 for women, and 80 for men — according to the World Health Organization. By 2030, the new study projects those numbers to rise to 88.4 for females and 82.8 for males. That’s thanks in large part to a healthy traditional diet centered around small portions of plant-based, nutrient-rich food.
No one is crazier about the freshness of fish than the Japanese.
Many Japanese meals start with miso soup, made from probiotic-rich miso paste and topped with seaweed, which contains high amounts of vitamins and minerals such as iodine and calcium.
Other diet staples include rice, vegetables and small amounts of fresh, omega-3-packed, heart- and brain-healthy fish.
“No one is crazier about the freshness of fish than the Japanese,” says Rosenthal.
And green tea, consumed throughout Japan, is rich in antioxidants and EGCG, a polyphenol that may help prevent against certain cancers.
Australians are proof that “it’s not only what you eat — it’s about your lifestyle,” says Rosenthal. Australian men born in 2030 have a projected expectancy of 84 years, women 87.6.
Australia has an obesity problem that rivals our own, but its residents tend to be more active and spend more time outdoors than Americans.
And while fast food has taken hold in most cities, fresh fruits and vegetables are easily accessible Down Under — as is Vegemite, a salty yeast spread typically eaten on toast. The umami-rich condiment has some of the highest amount of B vitamins found in any food. It’s an acquired taste, but that high vitamin and mineral count is “very important for energy and building strong hair, skin, nails and eyes,” says NYC-based dietitian Amy Shapiro.
Australians are also “doing quite well with reducing their smoking,” says Bennett — an important step in preventing early death.
Starchy pastries and chocolate abound in Switzerland, where the projected life span for 2030 is 84 years for men and 87.7 for women. But such treats are balanced out by one of the healthiest foods around: yogurt.
“It’s a really big thing over there,” says Rosenthal of the dairy product that’s eaten on muesli, in desserts, and as a meal on its own. Yogurt is full of probiotics, which can aid in digestion and provide an immune system boost, as well as healthy protein.
And the Swiss typically reach for full-fat, no-sugar-added varieties, which can be more filling and easier for the body to digest.
But Rosenthal says it’s not just the Swiss food that matters — it’s the fresh Alps atmosphere.
“The quality of the air you’re breathing makes an enormous difference,” he says.
USA: Last for high-income industrialized countries
Bennett says America’s poor performance is “not really a shock” — the country’s weight problem, along with economic inequality and a lack of universal health care, drags the average life expectancy down significantly. There’s also the high homicide rate, high death rates for mothers and children and growing stress levels to consider.
Kimchee and yogurt may be appearing on more American plates than ever, but that’s not likely to move the needle by 2030.