Traditional Asian meals are low in fat and high in fiber.
While the fundamental elements of the traditional Asian diet remain sound, the industrialization of Asian countries has contributed to unhealthy shifts in the traditional healthful Asian diet. The introduction of processed foods that are higher in fat, calories and sodium has resulted in a modern Asian diet that closely resembles the standard American diet, which can negatively affect health and increase the risk of disease. Understanding the basics of the traditional Asian diet and how it differs from the standard American diet helps you see why it is a healthier way to eat.
Higher Vegetable Consumption
Many traditional Asian diets contain lots of fresh vegetables, with only about 20 percent of the total calories coming from meat, according to University of Hawaii. Vegetables in the standard American diet, however, are often not included in meals or, at best, offered as a side dish, boiled until soggy and void of flavor and important nutrients. Vegetables contain dietary fiber and provide vitamins and minerals necessary for the proper functioning of your body's systems. Eating a diet rich in fresh vegetables helps reduce the risk of heart disease and protect against certain types of cancers. ChooseMyPlate.gov guidelines suggest filling half your plate with vegetables and fruits.
Healthier Cooking Techniques
Although a few traditional Asian foods -- such as tempura -- are deep-fried and some foods and sauces can be high in sodium, authentic Asian cooking typically embraces low-fat techniques such as stir-frying or steaming and uses salt-free seasonings such as ginger, garlic, fresh herbs and chilies. Typical Asian cooking techniques also focus on cooking foods quickly and using very little oil, resulting in heart-healthy dishes that retain more nutrients. Standard American fare, on the other hand, is high in fat and loaded with foods like french fries, fried chicken, doughnuts and packaged snacks loaded with saturated fats and calories. High-fat diets stimulate hormone levels, increasing the risk of hormone-related cancers.
Less Red Meat Consumption
The typical American diet includes a generous amount of red meats, such as steaks, bacon, sausage, hamburgers and pork chops. Red meats are high in saturated fat, and eating red meats is linked to the risk of developing heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes. The traditional Asian diet, on the other hand, focuses on lean proteins like fish and tofu, using meat in small quantities. Eating fish, such as salmon or tuna, boosts your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of some cancers and help lower your risk of heart disease. Tofu -- a soybean product -- contains B vitamins, iron and calcium and is linked to cholesterol reduction and bone health.
Fewer Refined Carbohydrates
Unlike the standard American diet, the traditional Asian diet doesn't rely on refined carbohydrates, such as white breads, pastries, cakes, crackers and packaged snacks, which are typically void of nutrients and packed with calories. While rice -- an Asian food staple -- is high in carbs, it provides more than 15 vitamins and minerals. Both white and brown rice varieties are a source of resistant starch, which is linked to improved blood glucose control in diabetic patients. Rice is also glucose-, sodium- and cholesterol-free, making it an excellent healthy-heart choice.
Green Tea Consumption
While unhealthy, sugar-loaded sodas are a part of the standard American diet, green tea plays an important role in the traditional Asian diet. Green tea contains four primary polyphenols -- epicathechin, epicathechin gallate, epigallocathechin and epigallocathechin gallate -- which are plant chemicals that act as powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect your body against free radicals, which can damage cells. Daily consumption of green tea has been linked to cancer prevention, particularly of prostrate cancer, according to the University of California, San Francisco.