Asian diets vary depending on the region/country. However, there are a few similarities. This includes a large consumption of plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, herbs & spices, rice, noodles, seafood and soy products.
Traditional Asian diets are historically linked to low incidences of chronic diseases. They are usually closely tied with religion and cultural customs. A region in Japan called Okinawa has the longest living population in the world. Japan has less than half the number of cardiovascular deaths when compared to the US. Sadly, a lot of Asians, especially in China, have strayed from their traditional diet for a more westernised diet high in fat and sugar, China now has Diabetes rates that rival those in the US, and obesity rates are soaring as fast food and sedentary lifestyles replace a life of manual labour fed by rice and vegetables (‘Asian Diet | Oldways,’ 2018)
Image 2: The Chinese food Pagado (Wang et al., 2016)
In 2016 The Chinese Government produced new healthy eating guidelines to tackle the rising problem of obesity. The new dietary guidelines are in the form of a Chinese Food Pagoda. The Chinese food Pagoda is very similar to the Irish food pyramid. However, there are no sweets or cakes included. A recommended daily amount of drinking water is given. There is a man running beside the Food Pagoda indicating exercise is recommended.
The Chinese Healthy eating guidelines state that the “Major Characteristics of a balanced diet is to eat a variety of food with cereals as a staple”.
- It encourages that an average of 12 different foods are eaten per day and at least 25 different foods per week.
- Moderately intense physical activity should be carried out at least 5 days a week with a weekly total of 150 minutes. At least 6000 steps should be taken daily.
- The daily consumption of Vegetables, milk and soya are encouraged. A daily vegetable intake of 300-500g with Dark vegetables such as spinach, Pak choy, broccoli and Tomatoes taking up half of that is recommended. Approximately 200-350g of fruit should be eaten daily and 300ml of liquid milk.
- Plenty of beans and nuts should be eaten for energy and essential oils.
- A weekly intake of 280-525g of fish, poultry and eggs.
- Red meat is not really mentioned.
- People are encouraged to lower their salt oil and sugar intake. ≤6g per day of salt for adults. No more than 25-30g of cooking oil. <50g of sugar (preferably <25g) and <2g of Trans fatty acids.
- The recommended amount of water consumed per day is 7-8 cups (1500-1700ml) this includes plain boiled water and tea.
- Alcohol should be consumed sparingly and not at all by pregnant women. No more than 15g of alcohol for women and no more than 25g of alcohol for men (Wang et al., 2016)
Image 3: Japanese spinning top (Wang et al., 2016)
The modern guidelines for China and Japan are very similar. Both diets differ from the traditional Asian diet as they base their diets on grains. the traditional diet is based of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nut, seeds, herbs & spices.
In the traditional Asian diet there is a bigger emphasis on seafood. The Chinese and Japanese guidelines put fish, meat, poultry and eggs together.
The Japanese guidelines separate vegetables and fruit recommending 5-6 vegetable dishes per day and only 2 servings of fruit per day. What all 3 guidelines (traditional Asian, modern Chinese and Modern Japanese) have in common is that they all recommend drinking water and tea. Asians have thousands of different herbal teas that have different health benefits. Like the Mediterranean culture, it is frowned upon in Asian culture to eat alone. The Mediterranean and Asian cultures seem to have a healthier outlook on meals.
‘Asian Diet | Oldways’, (2018).
Wang, S., Lay, S., Yu, H. and Shen, Sr. (2016) ‘Dietary Guidelines for Chinese Residents (2016): comments and comparisons’, J Zhejiang Univ Sci B, 17(9), pp. 649-56.