Health Lessons from the Germans

When my sister was studying as an exchange student in Euskirchen, Germany, I had the pleasant fortune to tour some of the country. Over the course of my stay, I picked up on a few German health habits.

The Germans are incredibly health-conscious as a country, and they stress preventative care more than sick care; after all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even so, the Germans do have their own share of bad health habits just as we do.

German Habits to Leave on the Table

Habits are simply things that we do on auto-pilot. You can have good habits and bad habits, although bad habits tend to be a bit harder to break. A few of Germany’s not so good habits with regard to health include:

  • Smoking. Germans do like their cigarettes, and the national smoking rate proves it. Approximately 37% of German men and 26% of German women have a daily tobacco habit compared to 24% of men and 18% in the U.S.
  • Carb-heavy meals. A meal without bread in Germany is almost unheard of. And I’m not talking about just a little bit, either. I’m talking bountiful selections of fresh-from-the-bakery, all-you-can eat portions of carb-rich baked goods.
  • Vegetable-deficient diets. Germans tend to place much more emphasis on fat-laden meats, carb-loaded breads, and sugar-filled sweets than they do on fresh produce. While adequate meat is good for keeping protein levels up, low levels of fresh fruits and veggies put Germans at risk for vitamin deficiencies.

Good German Health Habits to Adopt

I’m not bashing on the Germans at all; there are plenty of good health habits the Germans have that we all could learn from and apply. For example:

  • Hearty Lunches: It’s common for Germans to only have one hot, heavy meal a day and that is lunch! Breakfast and dinner consist mostly of meat, cheese and bread but having a heavy lunch boosts their energy levels for the rest of the day. This practice does wonders for the metabolism and digestion.
  • Sparkling Water: I noticed everyone drank sparkling water in Germany. While it shouldn’t be a substitute for water, sparkling water does have its benefits, such as osteoporosis prevention, calms the stomach and helps in the digestive process. It’s also much healthier than drinking soda for a tasty carbonated drink.
  • An Active Lifestyle. Germans take their exercise seriously, and the benefits of their practice are clear. Despite their fat-heavy diets their national life expectancy rate is one of the highest in the world. Walking and riding a bike are popular ways of transportation in the country. Germany has bike/walk only lanes that allows for Germans to have an overall more active lifestyle.

Have you ever been to Germany? What are some differences in our health practices that you noticed? 

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