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I've heard that Asian people tend to be thiner because of they eat differently than westerners. What is it so different about their food?
I live in Japan on a military base. But I do eat out in Japan every now & then. This is my take on being here. They don't eat sweets like Americans. If you do eat their desserts they are lightly sweet. They drink 10 cups on average of Green tea. Which if you read bennies of green tea it speeds up your metabolism & burns fat. So, Im trying to drink 5 for now. Its kinda bitter but add fake sugar ,you'll be fine. They eat fish everyday- low cal. Sushi is a regular thing to eat. I don't eat raw sushi so I buy cooked fish for my sushi. One thing they do do is eat fried fish,fried things. I avoid that. Plus all the men seem to smoke & drink regularly. But they eat 50 % of their diet is veggies. They eat a lot of greens. They eat miso soup. which is a soybean base broth. Its good & low cal. They add dehydrated seaweed to it. Yumm! And white rice is a basic food item. But white rice is not good for you. Very caloric, brown rice about 1 cup is a single serving. Plus no sugar dips like with white rice. Thanks!
PS: about faster metabolism, my husband gain a lot weight while he lived in china for 3 years, we kind eat some things, but I didnt gain he dose. I can't prove it , but it might be true.
Also, there are programs everyday on cooking and health. There are also daily required exercises for office workers in the morning.
The food on the other hand are much smaller in portion. In Japan, we usually eat a lot of vegetables, fish, fruit, and rice. However, this doesn't mean that all Japanese are skinny. Theres just so much good food in Japan that is also very healthy.
The "tend to be thinner" was (historically) based on diet and portions. As others have pointed out (and speaking from my Japanese perspective), some cuisines just aren't as loaded with various dietary fats as European-based dishes are.
I'm not saying it's completely fat-free. Just that there's less of it.
We as Asian people (in reference to the ethnocultural groups colloquially known as such) are no more or less genetically prone to faster metabolisms than y'all white people (), in my belief system. If I eat crap and stop moving around, my metabolism slows down just like anyone else's. At 5'8", I ballooned to 195 lbs. in the late '90s/early '00s because I ate garbage and didn't move.
I look at pictures of myself from even 2003-04 and I still look fatter than I do today.
The available foods in Eastern Asian countries do tend to be filled with less fattening ingredients (and sorry to say but milk in excess can also be fattening; why else is there a distinction between whole milk, 2%, and skim? What do you think manufacturers are reducing?), but as I recently saw in a report, Japanese people are collectively getting fatter on average because of an increase in Western-style fast-food places, a higher importance placed on a sedentary (computer/mobile-driven) lifestyle, and less importance on physical activity.
My mother and her sisters will always be rail thin, but that's because they grew up in post-war Japan where food itself was scarce and they had to learn to make do with what amounted to rations. Japanese people of my generation (born in the '70s) and the generations that followed don't have that problem, so naturally, we're going to get bigger.
The Japanese palate is also a contributing factor when it comes to food, as others have pointed out in this thread. My dad was a chef and adored all sorts of food experiences. European styles were his favorite, and that usually involved big and bold flavors. My mother, the traditionalist, grew up with and preferred the minimal subtleties of traditional Japanese preparations -- very light, very airy, and gentle on the palate.
Garlic offended my mother while my dad, my sister, my wife (Irish-American), and I see garlic like frickin' perfume! I eat sushi in the traditional way: a dab of wasabi in a small dish of soy sauce, whereas my 6'1" 240 lb. white American friend can't eat sushi unless he mixes the ENTIRE BLOB of wasabi into his dish of soy sauce. His argument is, in my opinion representative of a prevailing thought among the culture, that there's no flavor otherwise.
The Japanese take on Italian food is borderline offensive because not only is it bland to me, but also a hint of too much sweetness that doesn't belong in a savory or tangy dish!
So the long-ass answer here to the short question is that we as Asian people are not necessary thinner than other races by design, but it's just more of what culturally is available to eat, as the non-Asian folks who lived in Japan or Korea or elsewhere can attest when they lost weight.
I lived in China for a year and I'll second everything destinyslotus said. I was in Chongqing in the southwest (near Sichuan), not the northeast, so the cuisine was quite different from Beijing - In fact, when I travelled to Beijing after a few months living in Chongqing, I was thrilled by how healthy the food was in comparison! Chongqing/Sichuan cooking is, in short, shockingly unhealthy. It's just grease, grease, MSG, grease, sugar, grease, white rice, and grease. Everything is just swimming in grease all the time - breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. Breakfast would typically be rice or congee with sweetened soymilk and some kind of deep-fried pastry (although rice noodles with vinegar and chili oil were another common breakfast in Chongqing - what the hell kind of breakfast is that?). Lunch and dinner would be rice with some kind of stirfry, fried noodles, or a gigantic portion of noodles in soup. The main local specialties were Chongqing-style hotpot (distinguished from other styles of hotpot by the inch and a half of chili oil floating at the top of the broth; also, the dipping sauce for Chongqing-style hotpot is not sauce, but more oil), numb-and-spicy meat/veggie skewers (basically, hotpot on a stick), numb-and-spicy soup (individual servings of hotpot), hot and sour noodles (rice or yam noodles with salty pickled cabbage, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, MSG, and loads of chili oil), and a couple of stirfry dishes which were, of course, cooked in tons of oil. Many stirfry dishes actually involve deep-frying the ingredients before stirfrying them with sauce! And all breads are actually cakes - it's really hard to find bread that's not sweetened. Oh, and contrary to the statements that they don't eat dairy in Asia, I can attest that that certainly doesn't apply in China! They drink tons of milk and eat tons of yogurt over there. It's really hard to find skim or semi-skim milk - most of it is homogenized. The yogurt was also full-fat, and all of it was sweetened! I actually made it a mission to find an unsweetened yogurt, and I sampled every single brand I saw. Every single one, including those marked "plain" and "original", was sweetened. Even cheese is sweetened over there! The only kinds of cheese available in my local supermarket were some kind of chocolate or strawberry-flavoured concoction. Bizarre.
Oh, and raw vegetables are seen as being really unhealthy and hard on your system, so you'll never catch people eating raw veggies or salads - everything must be cooked, and the main cooking method is stirfrying in a ton of oil. Therefore, even if you're eating plenty of veggies, you're actually eating a ton of fried food.
Maybe it's because I come from one of the most active, healthy-lifestyle places in North America (Vancouver Island), but I didn't find people particularly active over there (unless they were manual labourers and didn't have a choice). My Chinese friends all hated exercise and thought I was insane to walk from one end of campus to the other; they would sooner cram themselves into a public bus than endure a 30-minute walk.
And? With all the sugar and grease and exercise-phobia? I hardly saw any fat people over there. Actually, I think the average BMI was about 18; a BMI of 16 is quite normal. Anyone over BMI 19 or 20 was considered fat. At a BMI of 21, I looked huge compared to the locals.
I did notice people skipping meals a lot...and then they would binge and take laxatives. Just as destinyslotus said, bulimia is seen as a normal way to lose weight in China. Also, contrary to the norm in the West where people comfort-eat when they're stressed, in China the norm seems to be to lose one's appetite when stressed. I think that's actually a big one - life in China is stressful.
Look up the Japanese diet. They're a great example. Except for eating rice at every meal... I have no idea how they do that but still stay thin XD
The Japanese have lots of fish and not a lot of red meat.
They do tend to have much smaller portions than Westerns have.