Thailand – The spice is right
If you find it hard to finish your order when you go out for a Thai meal, it might not because your eyes are bigger than your belly. The chemical capsaicin, found in chillies, is believed to work as an appetite suppressant. Plus, when you eat spicy food, you tend to eat slowly, which means you consume less, and drink more water, which helps to fill you up quicker. Not a fan of spicy food? Try red peppers instead. A study by Purdue University in the US found they had a similar effect on appetite.
Eating Thai food could help you live longer too, according to researchers at Thailand's Kasetsart University. The antioxidant ingredients in Tom Yung Gung soup (shrimp, coriander, lemongrass and ginger) were found to help inhibit the growth of cancerous tumours.
Okinawans are frequently cited as being the healthiest people on the planet – with the largest proportion of people living to 100 in the world. And while their veggie-and-soy-heavy diet is often quoted as the secret of their longevity, there's another custom particular to the region which helps them stay slim and healthy.
There is a long-standing tradition called "hara hachi bun me", which roughly translates as "eat until you are eight parts full" and sees Okinawans deliberately restricting their calorie intake to around 1,800 or 1,900 per day. A restricted calorie diet has been shown to prolong life in lab animals – and it looks like the same may be true for humans.
France – Take it slow
Our Gallic neighbours have a reputation for enjoying their country's fine food and drink, with red meat, soft cheese and paté all very much ON the menu. So how do we square that with the fact that France is way down the list of "fattest countries" measured by BMI?
The answer might be how the French enjoy their meals – with enjoy being the operative word. Their famously long lunch breaks see them slowly savouring their food rather than shovelling it down at their desk. This slow eating gives the stomach chance to register fullness before going back for seconds or dessert. Not only that, but the French tend to cook their meals from scratch, and eat less processed food than we do in Britain.
Germany and Mexico – Front-loading
These two nations may not appear to have a great deal in common, but there is an important similarity in the way that they structure the day's eating – compared to the UK at least.
The Germans often treat breakfast as the biggest meal of the day – getting the bulk of the eating done early and having lighter plates for lunch and dinner. This efficient approach to calorie consumption sets them up nicely for the day, while at the same time keeping hunger pangs at bay.
Mexicans have a similar approach in that they treat lunch as their main meal – with a lighter dinner in the evening. Whether you go for a big breakfast or lunch, eating the majority of your calories early is a good idea as it gives you longer to burn them off.
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