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The Yin and Yang of Asian Diets
The stellar health and longevity of many Chinese and Japanese is testimony
By Allan Richter
Linda Yo was the picture of health when she immigrated to the United States at age 18. Growing up in Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia, she loved to eat as a young girl but never gained weight. Yo, who is Chinese, remembers rice porridge breakfasts and vegetables, fish and some meat for lunch and dinner. Simple noodle soups were often appetizers and meals just before bed.
“I came to the United States in the fall of 1986—by Christmas I was already chubby,” recalls Yo, who says that her fast weight gain of 25 pounds began at a Virginia community college cafeteria. “I would eat a hamburger, but it was small and didn’t fill me up, so I would come home and eat something else. At that time I didn’t know how to cook, so I would buy macaroni salad, fish and chips, that kind of thing. A lot of desserts, too. The ice cream in this country is fabulous.”
Motivated by a classmate who teased her about her weight, Yo set out to regain her slender figure. She tried teas, diet pills and starvation diets. She emptied store shelves of weight-loss books. “Nothing worked,” she said. One day, as Yo stared in the mirror, her mind began to drift back to Asia. “People there ate three to five times a day,” she says. “They like to eat out a lot because apartments are small and it’s not really convenient for them to cook, but they were slim. So I thought maybe I should prepare my food the traditional way.”
Yo was short on cooking skills; she had to use what was available and what she knew. So she began to marry rice, an Asian staple, with Western foods like frozen fish that she baked. “That’s what you do in Asia. You combine everything with rice and, when you eat meat, slice the meat thinly,” says Yo, who put the lessons she learned in her book Asian Slim Secrets (Asian Way). “In about four months, I lost the 25 pounds.”
Yo’s transformation from and back to her more slender self is but one more piece of evidence that the Asian diet and lifestyle is a fountain of youth. The life-sustaining qualities of Asia’s diet have long been affirmed by the endurance and longevity of its people.
Proof in the Pudding, and Fries