Eat local on your travels and enjoy the benefits

Beef up your nutrition and explore other cultures with these authentic dishes.

By Louise Wedgwood , February 26 2020
Eat local on your travels and enjoy the benefits

Fast food tempts the business traveller at every turn on their journey with its speed and convenience; yet one of the great joys of travelling the world is the chance to savour the cuisine of other cultures.

Many traditional meals are not only delicious, but also chock full of good stuff to fortify your travels. Here are some special meals in key travel destinations that will enrich both your visit and your health.

Japan – Shabu Shabu 

More than a meal, this hot pot brings Japanese cooking directly to your table. Paper-thin slices of tender meat and fresh vegetables are served raw. You make your selections and them cook them in the bubbling broth, a few pieces at a time.

With Japanese shabu shabu, fresh and healthy ingredients are cooked at your table.
With Japanese shabu shabu, fresh and healthy ingredients are cooked at your table.

 We know that eating more vegetables is one of the best ways to improve all aspects of health. Take the opportunity to get plenty here, like chrysanthemum greens, onion, carrot, and local mushrooms.

Brazil – Feijoada

In a meat-loving nation, you can do worse than this black bean stew. Feijoada (fae-jou-ah-dah) is a celebratory meal enjoyed with friends and family over the weekend.

The nutritious black beans are slow-cooked with pork and beef, and served with juicy oranges. Ask for a moderate portion of this rich stew, and don’t forget to add a side of vegetables.

The black beans in Feijoada add the wide-ranging benefits of anthocyanin.
The black beans in Feijoada add the wide-ranging benefits of anthocyanin.

As well as the terrific protein and fibre content of all beans and legumes, black beans provide a particular gift in the form of anthocyanin. This is the substance that also colours blueberries, grapes and eggplants. The health benefits of anthocyanins are wide-ranging, including protection against cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Vietnam – Goi Cuon

Goi Cuon (goy-cwon) are appetisers you might know as rice paper rolls. The paper-thin wrapper encloses cellophane noodles with salad vegetables, fragrant herbs and sometimes pork or prawns. 

Vietnamese rice paper rolls are a simple way to enjoy a light, balanced meal.
Vietnamese rice paper rolls are a simple way to enjoy a light, balanced meal.

It’s a simple way to enjoy a light, balanced meal, especially on the run. One of the joys of fresh Vietnamese ingredients is the diversity of herbs compared to what’s available in Western supermarkets.

France – Bouillabaisse 

French cuisine is famed for its creamy, buttery foods, but there are heart-healthy options, too. Bouillabaisse (pronounced booy-ah-base) is a traditional soup from Provence.

Seafood-rich bouillabaisse is packed with brain-boosting Omega-3.
Seafood-rich bouillabaisse is packed with brain-boosting Omega-3.

It’s made with a variety of fish and shellfish, in a base of tomatoes, garlic, and onions. The soup is further flavoured with fennel, saffron, orange zest and thyme.

Two serves of fish – being rich in Omega-3 fatty acids – per week can support healthy brain cells. It also reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke by improving blood vessel elasticity, boosting “good” cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure.

Sweden – Ärtsoppa 

It’s not all meatballs and cinnamon scrolls on a typical Swedish menu. Ärtsoppa is a hearty, warming soup made from yellow peas and flavoured with smoked pork. Like all legumes, split peas are a smart way to choose a filling meal that won’t overdo the calories. 

A soup made of split peas, Ärtsoppa is a filling meal that won’t overdo the calories.
A soup made of split peas, Ärtsoppa is a filling meal that won’t overdo the calories.

Ärtsoppa is traditionally followed by pancakes with strawberry jam and cream. Enjoy, but stick to a small serve of this part of the meal. 

Singapore – Chilli crab 

One of the stars on the Singapore food scene is this local delicacy. Crabs are quickly stir-fried in a sweet and savoury tomato gravy and served with their shells on. Enjoy with a substantial serve of stir-fried greens, and some rice.

Singapore chilli crab is high in protein and relatively low in fat
Singapore chilli crab is high in protein and relatively low in fat

Crab meat is high in protein and relatively low in fat. It contains good amounts of B12, a vitamin essential to your blood, brain and nervous system found mainly in animal products. Crab is also a handy source of minerals such as calcium, potassium, and zinc.

United Arab Emirates – Tabbouleh 

The authentic version of this lemony herb salad contrasts with the soggy stuff in your hometown deli. A mix of finely chopped parsley, lemon juice, bulgur wheat, diced tomatoes, and spring onions bursts with fresh flavour.

Tabbouleh bursts with flavour as well as Vitamin C and flavonoids.
Tabbouleh bursts with flavour as well as Vitamin C and flavonoids.

Eat generous helpings alongside kebabs, hummus, baba ghanoush (eggplant dip) and pita bread.

Half a cup of parsley provides around half your required Vitamin C for the day – handy for continuing wellness on the road. Parsley also contains flavonoids such as luteolin. These work as antioxidants to prevent damage to your body’s cells.

Greece – Gigantes Plaki  

Gigantes are large white beans, from the Greek word for giant. Gigantes from several areas of Greece have a Protected Geographical Indication status. It means their quality and characteristics are linked to the unique location they’re grown in.  

This dish is baked in a sauce of tomato, onion, garlic and herbs. A sprinkling of feta can round it off. With a single meal of gigantes plaki, you could consume around 20 grams of fibre – not far off the 25 to 30g recommended by the Australian Heart Foundation to accrue over the course of a day.

A good intake of fibre helps hold your blood sugar on an even keel, keep your digestive system moving and avoid weight gain.

Eating a diverse array of fresh foods is the best way to make sure you’re getting all the different types of nutrients your body needs to function well. As well as being physically nourishing, the healthiest meals also stimulate the senses. And what better way to understand another culture than with a meal characteristic of your host country? 

Louise Wedgwood

Louise Wedgwood is a Brisbane-based 'science-savvy' health and lifestyle writer.


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