Going on a solo adventure is a great way of experiencing different cultures with new people, throwing yourself in at the deep end and ticking some things off of your bucket list. And with each new country comes the chance to sample local cuisine. Depending on where you are in the world though, the different culinary encounters could potentially boost your wellbeing.
We’re talking higher energy levels, increased libido or, in certain cases, more years on your life. Since we travel all over the world, we’ve taken a look at the best national cuisines out there and how they could work wonders for you.
Now, the next time you book a new adventure, not only will all this new food make you very happy but you’ll know exactly which bits of it can work their magic on the inside too. These are four of the healthiest diets around the world for your wellbeing.
The world’s best diets: longevity
We all know certain foods can have a damaging effect on our health, but the reverse is also true. It’s possible to undo some naughtiness and extend your time on this earth (meaning even more trips and adventures) by filling your plate with the right foods.
Read more: Why I quit my job and hit the open road
The Mediterranean variety enjoyed by those in Spain is the best of the bunch, with a recent study directly linking it to the Iberian nation’s longevity. The paper predicted that, by 2040, the country would leapfrog Japan into first place on the life-expectancy scale – with the average lifespan forecast to be a respectable 85.8 years.
And when you dig into the details, it’s easy to see why there will soon be an army of elderly people in Spain.
A high intake of olive oil, nuts, greenery and cereals keeps things low on the saturated fats front and jam-packed full of heart-healthy vitamins and nutrients, while protein comes in the form of omega-3 rich fish and low-fat poultry. Red and processed meats and their carcinogenic qualities are kept to a minimum, and alcohol is drank in moderation and with meals.
Its national dish, paella, embodies everything that’s great about the diet, and the taste of the saffron-infused speciality would be enough to convert even the biggest sceptic to a Mediterranean way of life. Wellness, ticked.
The world’s best diets: energy levels
You’re going to want to fill up with an energy-packed meal that will keep you going during a day of exploration and adventure, and there’s one cuisine that’s really got this covered.
Although it appears unconventional when compared to a traditional Western breakfast, the Chinese staple of congee (a rice porridge that can be served either sweet or savoury) is the perfect way start your day.
The grain is simmered in a hearty stock for a couple of hours until it takes on a silky and soft mush. Although that may sound basic, rice (both the brown and white varieties) is a gluten-free, nutrient-rich complex carbohydrate that will essentially drip feed the body with energy – making it a great basis for a day of full-on fun.
If that wasn’t enough, the Chinese wash a bowl of congee down with a hot mug of green tea, which might just be better for your energy levels than a cup of Joe.
Green tea contains a lifting dose of caffeine, but it comes in a much more diluted form than coffee, so won’t leave you crashing and craving for a second hit. In fact, one study found that the herbal infusion might help prevent brain fade, unlike coffee, which research reveals might just be filling the void left by a dependency on caffeine – what an eye opener!
The world’s best diets: libido
The stereotype goes that the French have one of the sexiest accents going and that Italians are stallions in the bedroom. But when it comes to food, they may just have some competition from the other side of the Atlantic.
Read more: Sex and sleep are the two keys to happiness
The diet in question is that of Mexico, which scores well on the sex drive scale thanks to its high consumption of one fruit in particular – the humble avocado.
Although the US tops worldwide consumption of the pit-bearing berry, it has its neighbour to thank; 45 per cent of the world’s avocados are grown in the Central American country, and Mexico’s population each consume on average 6.11kg (roughly 35 of the scaly green fruits) per year – that’s a lot of guacamole.
The millennial favourite contains high levels of two crucial nutrients that are important in the bedroom – folate and vitamin B6.
A study published in 2014 found that a deficiency in the former could be the cause of some embarrassing moments (erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation) for men, while an early experiment found that pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) supplements helped to boost female participant’s libido. Enjoy smashed on toast for breakfast and see where the morning takes you.
The world’s best diets: brain power
The Japanese have the fourth highest average IQ in the world, and the country’s score of 105 leaves the UK (100), US (98) and Australia (98) firmly in the shade. But why is the Far Eastern country leagues ahead of the West?
Well, aside from the country’s great education system, it could also have something to do with the primary inclusion of fish and fermented food in the island’s diet.
Although the amount has historically been much higher, the average Japanese person currently eats 27.3kg of fish per year (around half a salmon fillet every day), and has a high intake of omega 3 as a result. The nutrient has been shown to have brain-boosting powers, and with national dishes such as sushi, sashimi and tempura all available with fish, it’s easy to see how the Japanese manage to get so much of it into their diet.
As mentioned, the diet is also rich in fermented food and drinks – such as miso, soy sauce and sake – and this could be another factor behind the nation’s boosted brain power.
A review published in the journal Preventive Nutrition and Food Science detailed the different ways that fermented produce can be beneficial for the brain, including how soybeans could improve cognitive function and that koji (an ingredient in sake) can protect the body’s nervous system.
We’ll drink to that!
Three adventures to taste all these new diets on:
A sensory journey to Japan
Discover the hidden foodie spots of Osaka – the culinary hub of the Far East island – and learn how to make your own sushi at the largest fish market in the world. Once you can distinguish your maki from sashimi, put your new brain powers to the test as attend ninja school in Kyoto.
A foodie awakening in Mexico
Find hidden hotspots on a street food safari in Mexico City before heading to Oaxaca for a private cooking class in the country’s culinary capital. And get merry with your new found friends as you sample some of Mexico’s best-known exports – tequila, mezcal and cerveza. Cheers!
Vespa the Spanish countryside
Scoot your way from one posada to the next as you make your way through the stunning countrysides of central Spain. Get a taste for traditional cuisine, tuck into local delicacies and wash it all down with a glass (or two!) of some stunning Spanish wines.