Why Spaniards Are the Healthiest People in the World

By | March 19, 2019

How can a country known for its smoking habit, wine, and late nights have one of the highest life expectancies around the globe? These factors could play a role.

Learn from what works

Globe model spinning on dark wooden desk. White wall empty space background.Mykolastock/Shutterstock

Bloomberg News recently ranked the health of 169 countries around the globe based on factors like life expectancy, weight, and clean air. For the 2019 list, Spain rose five spots to number one, pushing out fellow Mediterranean nation Italy as the healthiest in the world. With a “health grade” of 92.75 (out of a possible 100), Spain easily surpassed countries like the United States, which got a 73.02 and came in 35th. In fact, Spain is predicted to push past Japan for the world’s highest life expectancy by 2040; experts predict that Spaniards will live, on average, to be 85.7 years old. What can we learn from the Spanish in fostering a healthy life?

They follow a Mediterranean diet

Ingredients for spring vegetable buddha bowl. Delicious healthy food. On a gray background, top view Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock

Spaniards are also famous for their version of the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes olive oil, nuts, fish, and legumes—and less red meat, processed meats, and baked goods. A 2018 diet study found that after five years, people eating a Mediterranean diet had a significantly lower risk of a major cardiovascular event like heart attack or stroke compared to people eating a low-fat diet. Find more foods to add to your diet to help you live longer.

They’ve got an appetite for vegetables

Healthy Green food Clean eating selection Protein source for vegetarians: brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, spirulina, green peas on gray concrete backgroundLisovskaya Natalia/Shutterstock

While Americans are reaching for more and more packaged foods, the Spanish are upping their vegetable intake. About 39 percent of Spanish men and half of Spanish women eat vegetables every day—figures that have actually increased since 2001, according to a European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies report. Meanwhile, only 9 percent of Americans eat enough vegetables on the daily, according to the CDC.

Reader's Digest