By: Jacklyn Tran – Ethnic Seattle

January 11, 2016

Asian Americans represent a growing population within the United States with a history dating back to 1843 when the first Japanese immigrants arrived. Through years of being surrounded by Americanisms: the food, the culture, the media; Asian Americans still often hold onto one aspect of their own culture that may have lasting beneficial effect, their diet.

What comes to mind when we think of an all-American meal? Meat and potatoes, maybe, burgers and fries definitely. The characteristics of a standard American diet can often be described as fast, processed, high in sugar and saturated fats; which consistently lands the U.S. high on the list of fattest countries in the world.

Meanwhile, the Asian diet, while varying between the many different countries and ethnicities that it encompasses, can largely be described as being centered around plants and vegetables, rice and grains, seafood, poultry, and fruit.

Comparing some of the elements and mindsets of daily eating rituals, east and west,  it’s plain to see how adjusting some habits to reflect a more Asian diet can positively impact overall health.

Apps and Snacks

In an Asian household: nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and roasted seaweed are what you reach for when you’re feeling a bit of a snack attack. In an American household, more often it’s the potato chips and dip, the pop-in-the-microwave popcorn, the cheese and crackers that satiate pre-dinner hunger pains.

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The Main Course

In meat-centric America, red meat rules all. It has also ruled many years of heated nutritional debates with one side declaring that red meat high in saturated fat leads to high cholesterol which may lead to heart disease. On the other end, opponents contend that lean red meat is perfectly heart-healthy. In the Asian diet, meat is never strictly the main course, often acting instead as a side. Alternatively, vegetables, soy products, spices and soups play a large part. The absence of red meat also has some economic roots, since fish and poultry were often easier to come by in many parts of Asia and thereby easier on the wallet. Less red meat made sense in more ways than one.

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Portion Size

“Bigger is better,” they say. In a way, they are absolutely right. A big, western-sized meal can lead to a big waistline too, if that’s what you’re into. When traveling to the eastern hemisphere, one of the first things noticed when eating at the nearest restaurant or food stall is the size of the bowl. Smaller portions and smaller bowls encourage smaller mid sections.

Drink

The average 12-oz can of soda contains up to 152 calories and about 40 grams of sugar, exceeding the World Health Organization’s recommended 25 grams of daily sugar intake. According to the Huffington Post, soda was the drink of choice in the U.S. for more than twenty years until water became the more popular beverage in 2013. The most consumed beverage in the whole world (after water) is tea, which happens to be an Asian staple. A regular 8-oz cup contains 2 calories (at most!), zero grams of sugar, and boasts general health benefits such as antioxidants. Some studies have also suggested a positive relationship with heart health, reduced risk in certain cancers, protective effects against Alzheimer’s, and the list goes on and on.

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Dessert

Classic American desserts read off deliciously: chocolate sundaes with whip cream and cherries on top, golden apple pies, soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies, banana puddings with vanilla wafer crumbles, strawberry cheesecakes with graham cracker crusts. They also read off a bunch of calories and mounds of sugar, unfortunately. The classic Asian dessert is a party of one: fruit. Just like at the end of a dinner at the local Chinese restaurant, a plate of sliced oranges is all you need to round out a meal and introduce naturally occurring sugars, vitamins and nutrients into your daily caloric intake.

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The world of nutrition and health is always changing, with new information coming out faster than can be kept up with. One thing is certain, balance and wellness are key in health and in life. Each individual’s view of what that means for oneself can be different. Finding what fits right, what feels right is a journey. So be off, and be well!

And now, we leave you with some additional food for thought: health and nutrition quotes!

“True healthcare reform starts in your kitchen, not in Washington” -Anonymous

“The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” -Plato

“He who takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skill of his doctors.” -Chinese Proverb

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