Asian Cuisine for a Long Life?
I love Asian food, and from everything I've read, the diet itself is pretty healthy. Is it true that the Japanese live longer than any other people? If so, shouldn't we adopt their way of eating?
Until recently, the Japanese were the longest-living, healthiest people on the planet. Now, I'm afraid, they're increasingly afflicted with the kinds of health problems we see here in the West -- rising cholesterol levels, obesity, and alcohol-related liver problems. This change appears to be due to the fact that they are straying from their traditional healthy diet of fish, vegetables and rice -- and eating more fast foods, meat and bread.
You also should be aware that there's really no such thing as an "Asian diet." If you're a fan of Asian cuisines, you must realize how very different Japanese food is from Chinese, and how the diets of Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, and India are so distinctive. However, these cuisines do have a number of healthy elements that are lacking in Western diets:
Lots of fruits and vegetables.
A low percentage of total calories from fat (as low as 10 percent in Japan).
A high, omega-3 fatty acid intake, resulting from an emphasis on fish.
Inclusion of many soy-based foods.
Tea, which offers many antioxidant benefits, is a main beverage.
Despite these virtues, most Asian cuisines are very high in salt and include many ingredients which may be strange and, perhaps, unacceptable to Western tastes. Furthermore, Asian food preparation tends to be very labor intensive.
Westerners would do well to imitate the Japanese traditional diet and consume much more fish -- and less meat and milk. A particularly healthy trend is the growing popularity of "Pacific Rim" and "Asian Fusion" restaurants, where chefs apply the cooking methods, or flavor principles, of Far Eastern cooking to the foods we like in the West. The results are more interesting, and dishes are usually healthier than those served at typical Western restaurants. I don't know if this style of cooking lends itself to home preparation, or whether large numbers of Westerners would eat it on a regular basis, but you would do well to include the healthiest elements of these various cuisines in your own diet.