About one-third of all adult Americans are obese, about 8 percent of the American population suffers from diabetes, and heart disease causes about a third of all deaths in the United States. Dietary choices in the United States have a direct impact on the prevalence of these diseases. Conversely, several aspects of Asian diets are linked to lower prevalence of life-threatening disease.
Higher Vegetable Consumption
Although a wide variety of vegetables are available in the United States, they play a secondary role in American fare. They are typically served as side dishes, if at all, and some vegetables, such as potatoes, are often deep fried. Conversely, vegetables play a major role in Asian fare. They are commonly served in entrees and sometimes are used as main dishes without meats. Vegetables provide dietary fiber, which may help lower blood glucose levels that lead to obesity and diabetes. They also provide antioxidant vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, zinc and vitamin C, that prevent cellular damage and may inhibit the formation of cancerous tumors.
Fewer Fried Foods
A few authentic Asian foods, such Japanese tempura, are deep fried, but Asian cooking techniques typically favor steaming or stir frying. These techniques reduce or eliminate oils that add calories and fats to dishes. However, deep fried food is common in the United States. Americans commonly consume french fries, jalapeno poppers, fried chicken and doughnuts, which are loaded with fats that can clog arteries and contribute to heart disease.
Fewer Red Meats
Hamburgers, pork chops, steaks, meatballs, bacon and sausage are staples of the typical diet in the United States. These foods are high in saturated fats, which can elevate "bad" cholesterol and lead to arteriosclerosis, stroke and heart attack. These fats are also linked to obesity. Asian diets use red meats sparingly, focusing instead on lean proteins, such as fish and tofu. Fish are lower in saturated fats than red meats, and provide essential fatty acids that help support brain and nerve function. Tofu is a meat replacement that contains no saturated fats or cholesterol, and provides calcium for strong bones.
Fewer Simple Carbohydrates
Americans rely heavily on simple carbohydrates, which are most commonly found in white flour products, such as snack crackers, white breads, bagels, tortillas, pastries and cakes. Simple carbohydrates dramatically raise blood sugar levels, which can contribute to diabetes and weight gain. Asian fare typically does not include white flour products. Although white rice, a staple of Asian cuisine, is thought of as high in carbohydrates, these carbs are in the form of resistant starch, which your body does not readily digest.
- Prescription for Nutritional Healing; Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Obesity
- American Heart Association: Heart disease and stroke continue to threaten U.S. health
- Secrets from a Healthy Asian Kitchen; Ying Chang Compestine