Cultural traditions, attitudes toward food and the body, and the ready availability of fresh ingredients are key to a nutritious and healthy diet, says Catherine Hezser
The fact that Israel is listed among the countries that follow the most nutritious diets (Lack of vegetables and fruit in diet kills more people than smoking, 4 April) does not amaze me and is not only due to the so-called Mediterranean diet. In Israel ready-made meals and fast-food outlets are rare. Instead, there are small shops that sell fruit and vegetables on every corner and even young people have a family-based habit of cooking their own meals. Comparing the costs and nutritional values of a bowl of lentil soup or stuffed peppers to a burger with chips is a no-brainer.
Countries such as Israel, Lebanon and Iran show that a nutritious diet based on fruit, legumes, nuts and the occasional fish or chicken is not more expensive than a non- or anti-nutritional one. What matters are cultural traditions and attitudes toward food and the body, and the ready availability of fresh ingredients.
Professor of Jewish studies, Soas, and member of the editorial board of the journal Nutrition