These days, the food industry seems determined to provide healthier options, and even fast food companies are overhauling their menus with healthier offerings. Perhaps that's why food experts from England set out to determine what the healthiest, most nutrient-packed meal in the world would actually look like. The team studied more than 4,000 health claims and narrowed the list down to 222 before piecing together what they consider to be the most nutritious multicourse meal on the planet. Here, a concise guide to the undertaking:
What's in it?
The meal starts with a salmon terrine, which is smoked fish served with olive oil and a dusting of fresh herbs, alongside a mixed leaf salad with an extra-virgin olive oil dressing. Up next is a chicken and lentil casserole, accompanied by mixed veggies and a high-fiber multigrain roll on the side. Dessert is a vanilla-pudding-like blancmange, which consists of yogurt topped with walnuts and sugar-free caramel sauce.
What makes the meal so healthy?
The meal contains a variety of so-called "superfoods," serving up an ideal mix of vitamins, proteins, and chemicals conducive to a healthy lifestyle. The smoked fish, for example, contains heart- and artery-friendly omega-3s, while the high fiber content in the multigrain bread helps give the brain a boost. The chicken's high protein count helps build lean muscle mass, while pantothenic acid in lentils makes the brain more alert. To wash it all down, the active cultures in yogurt help promote digestion, and are also good for one's teeth, blood, and glucose control.
Where did the researchers get this idea?
Dr. Paul Berryman, CEO of Leatherhead Food Research, came up with the idea while flying home from a food conference. Originally, the project was envisioned as an airline meal, but Berryman decided instead to make a meal product that supported 222 vetted health claims. "It wasn't that simple, but we did it within one week," says Berryman.
Is it really the world's healthiest meal?
That's a point of contention. In 2009, chef Gurpareet Bains also whipped up a meal composed of "superfoods" that he considered to be the world's healthiest: A curry made with blueberries, goji berries, chicken, ginger, and garlic. Bains claims that the hearty, saucy dish may even help fight cancer cells. The point that both studies are aiming to make is that when it comes to eating healthy, flavor is as critical as are antioxidants. "Healthy foods do not have to be dull," says Berryman. "No matter how healthy, if foods do not taste good they will not sell."