Have you ever read about the Japanese population and how they live long and healthy? Or how Asians, in general, are rarely obese? There is a host of diverse and connected factors contributing to longevity and health, including the environment, social class and lifestyle.
However, food, undoubtedly plays a crucial role to one’s general wellness and health.
All cultures value good health, and no cuisine is devoid of nutritious foods, nor any entirely wholesome. Even health-centred dietary choices have drawbacks if poorly practices. As food and medical science progress, some of what was previously considered healthy foods are now proven otherwise (for example sugar), and vice-versa.
The following 6 aspects are some general features that makes the Asian cuisine a healthy choice.
Calories are bad for you, right? And white rice is a refined grain that contains a lot of calories, so it’s not that good? Rice is a staple food for a majority of Asian cultures (not only!). It is a natural source of carbohydrates that is filling but easily digestible. So, despite the high-calorie content, your body actually turns it into energy easier than other carb foods. Rice plays an important role in an Asian meal, but it is not actually the ‘main’ dish. In fact, rice is the ‘base’ to mix and match with other ingredients and dishes.
MEAT TO VEGGIE RATIO
Whether single-serve or full-course meals, Asian cuisines usually have a good portion of veggies, often more than meat. The common ratio is 3 veggies to 1 meat or seafood. Veggies aren’t just compliments, but also flavour-balancers to temper the stronger tastes from herbs and spices, as well as ‘cooling’ ingredients to the more ‘heaty’ meats. Agrarian histories and beliefs that venerate spirituality via plant-based diet, also inspire greater emphasis on fruits and vegetable consumption.
LOVE OF SEAFOOD
Fish and seafood are favourite mainstays in Asian cuisines, arguably more than meat. Even inland regions love their freshwater fish and shrimps. Fish and seafood contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke; as well as a myriad of awesome health benefits.
Most Asian cooking methods actually use little cooking oil, relying instead on heat to cook, and sauces to flavour. Stir-fry requires the mastering of fast-cooking with high-intensity heat. Steaming uses the vapour of boiling water. Braised and soup dishes are cooked with patience. Barbecue dishes are all about marinade and grill skills. Even deep-fried foods, when done properly, actually absorbs very little oil to achieve their golden crispiness.
NATURAL FLAVOURING AND PICKLES
Umami, zesty, savoury, or complex, Asian cuisines all use natural herbs, spices and sauce-mixes to achieve their myriad combination of flavours. In fact, it is often these ingredients that make each Asian-style distinct. Freshness is paramount, thus locally produced ingredients are always favoured.
Asian cuisines also often feature pickled veggies, such as the Korean Kimchi and Vietnamese pickled carrots. These are packed with digestion-friendly properties that can greatly improve your gut health.
GENERAL PHILOSOPHIES ABOUT FOOD
Asian cultures value mindful eating, and wastage is frowned upon. Thus, many ingredients are used to their fullest, such as the coconut in Thai and Sri Lankan cuisines. No part of a veggie is inedible. Bony leftovers from meat cuts can be cooked into delicious wholesome broths, or elements that provide for a diversity of textures in a meal.
Balance in all things is also a core tenet in many Asian cultures and thus returns to the above-mentioned ratio of protein and veggie ingredients; and meals that contain all major food groups.
All cuisines have wholesome aspects that one can learn and adapt; such as the Asian values, cooking methods, ingredients and concepts mentioned above. The two main practices of healthy-eating comes down to maintaining a balanced diet, and eating mindfully.