Implications of some traditional national diets being healthier than others? Which is which?

Inspired by a post in another thread that asserts that the traditional Japanese national diet is unhealthy.

It seems to be a rather logical conclusion that some traditional national diets are healthier than others. There are so many, and so varied, that this practically HAS to be the case. What implications does this carry? Could the Japanese be the dominant national power in the world if they didn’t eat so much white rice? And how do we determine which is which (healthy versus… not) anyway?

But people are varied too. One people’s traditional diet may be better for them than another’s, and vice-versa.

(I’m sure any genuine traditional diet is better than the garbage I see a lot of people eating.)

I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where) that the traditional Japanese diet tends to result in lower cholesterol for those who eat it, but that the Japanese also have high rates of stomach cancer because they tend to eat a lot of pickled things.

“Traditional diet” is not so easy to quantify.

Do you count Italy’s red sauces and India’s fiery curries, when in fact tomatoes and chili peppers are new world fruits?

Are you talking about the actual diet of the poor- which in farming societies would probably be largely grains and with small amounts of vegetables (often preserved ones) and only occasional meat? Or the diet the poor would eat if they were rich, which would include more meat and probably shocking amounts of fat? What about refined carbs, which would be economically out of reach for many people, but which many people would love to eat?

Are we assuming you are doing the same physical activity as them? Most agricultural cultures eat massive amounts of carbs and would gladly slup down piles of fat if they could afford it, but then they go off and do hard physical labor all day. I don’t think any traditional diet is optimized for the kind of sedentary lives most of us live.

The truth is the “traditional” diet is just as subject to change and economic forces as our own, the only difference being that we have access to a wider variety of foods these days.

I’d say most traditional diets find some kind of balance based on what is available to them, all of them go to hell once you give people enough money to buy lots of fat and refined carb and then sit them at a desk all day.