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A guide to well-being in Brazil

Healthy eating

As with many developed nations, Brazil has been struggling with obesity — the Brazilian Ministry of Health estimates that almost half of the population is overweight or obese. To combat this, the government produced dietary guidelines in 2014 as part of a programme to improve health and well-being for all Brazilians. Rather than recommending portion sizes or daily allowances, the guidelines encourage a common-sense attitude to healthy eating. This includes using fresh ingredients, eating regularly with other people, and avoiding ready-made or fast food.

Like many cultural aspects of Brazil, the cuisine is varied. There are many famous dishes that allow expats to enjoy local cuisine and eat healthily. Arroz de carreteiro, a dish made from rice, meat and herbs, is popular in Rio Grande do Sul and is an excellent example.

On the coast, seafood is very popular, making for plenty of opportunities to eat healthily. In the mid-west region, meat is very common in the cuisine, as is pequi, a local fruit about the size of an orange with nuts in the centre.

South-eastern cuisine is heavily influenced by the large number of Japanese descendants in the region, making for a more oriental mix — rice and beans are very common. African culture dominates the north-east and is reflected by the abundance of spices in local dishes.

The most exotic cuisine can be found in the north of the country, where fruit and fish from the Amazon forests are combined with native ingredients not found elsewhere in the country such as the fruits cupuaçu, bacuri and castanha-do-pará.

If you want to reap the benefits of this regional diversity, head to your local markets, where you are likely to find enough fresh food on offer to help the whole family eat healthily.


While reports about the level of pollution in Brazil in recent years may concern potential expats, the overall level of pollution in São Paulo is generally among the lowest in South America.  However, this is still likely to be a step down from the standards expats from Europe and North America will be used to.

The speed with which the urbanisation of major cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo has taken place has certainly not helped the issue. But the Brazilian national government is continuing to take steps towards decreasing air pollution in built-up areas by introducing new heavy-duty vehicle emissions standards that are close to European Union standards. These will come into force in 2019.

Exercise/keeping fit

Brazil has one of the largest gym industries in the world. As with many developed nations, the majority of gyms and fitness centres are located in the larger cities, but they can be found across the country. Many offer a range of fitness classes such as yoga and spinning. The price of gym  membership in Brazil is around £26.68 (prices correct July 2018.)

Outdoor gyms are popular in Brazil and equipment can be found along the many beachfronts. Originally intended for older users, they are ideal for a short workout, a warm up or just an opportunity to show off your physique! One of the most popular locations is Ipanema beach, which has a 1,000 square metre (3,400 sq ft) space where people can exercise for free.

With miles of incredible coastline and spectacular natural views inland, Brazil offers some fantastic locations to keep fit outside the gym. The outdoor culture and tropical weather helps as even the opportunity to take a walk on lunch breaks is a great way to add some additional physical activity to your day. Due to the heat of the day, you should plan your runs or intense workouts for the early morning or after sunset.

For many expats living in major cities, the beach is the ideal location for keeping fit; completing your workout while enjoying the incredible views can be exhilarating. In Rio de Janeiro the beach from Leme to Leblon features a 10 kilometre (6.2 mile) path, which is shared by runners and cyclists. But there are many other places to explore. Running routes in Rio can take you from Botafogo Beach to Parque Flamengo, or you could even take on the International Half Marathon route between Tim Maia Pontal Square and Flamengo.

The hills and mountains of Rio make for some incredible hikes and walks. Morro da Urca is ideal for an easier route, while Pedra Bonita offers some of the best views of the region. More advanced routes include Pico da Tijuca and Pedra de Gavea.

Brazil is known around the world for its love of football. Joining a local club or playing in a team with colleagues and friends is not only a great way to keep fit, but an excellent way to meet new people and get more involved with local culture.

Work-life balance

Brazil helps people to build a strong work-life balance by offering more days of paid vacation than anywhere else in the world. Combined with public holidays, the average holiday allowance is 41 days per year. By comparison, the UK offers 36 and the US 26 days per year.

The 2017 Expat Insider survey revealed that more than half of expats in Brazil not only find making local friends easy, they estimate that the majority of their friends and acquaintances are local residents.

Culturally, the key to well-being in Brazil is time away from work to focus on social interactions, family and enjoying the country’s natural beauty. Thanks to the weather and outdoor culture, many expats are likely to find that their work-life balance is greatly improved after moving to Brazil.

No matter how fit and healthy you are, you’ll always need the support of public or private health care. Learn more about health care in Brazil here.

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