How Does the Western Diet Differ from Asian Diet?

How Does the Western Diet Differ from Asian Diet?

Not many people are aware that food is a personal journey that is linked to spiritual beliefs, cultural ties, and habits. Here, our diet is responsible for our vitality and that too in terms of mental and physical health. Thus, there is no doubt, why there is a huge debate regarding what is best or considered as a great diet. Keep in mind that the stakes are quite high and serious.

Nutrition and Diet – As A Whole

There are two means of looking or judging nutrition, where one is based on the traditional medical science method that outlines the dietary dos and don’ts as per the doctor’s instruction for your physical makeup. The other one is the natural holistic approach that outlines your diet based on your whole being, body, mind, and soul.

Either way, both would take you to the road that is filled with the decision that is necessary for making. Well, the question is how can we make sure that we are doing the best for ourselves? And among the Western and Asian diet, which is good for our body and mind?

Traditional Difference Among Western and Asian Diet

Western diet aka Mediterranean diet especially the Italian one has been considered as the best diet for good health. One thing important to note down is that the Asian diet especially of the Japanese and Indian does not fall behind and have been known for their healthy and long life-expectancy.

Western health followed by most Americans is more abundant and prolific, which is related to diet. However, the Chinese diet that was previously considered to be a healthy one, is changing as the country progress.

The same is with the Indian diet that is still considered to be a healthy one but is currently getting modified at each varied ten kilometres, as the country is a vast one that is filled with the diverse and colourful palate. A close watch of the western diet that encompassed the Mediterranean one involved the huge intake of nuts, cereals, vegetables and fruits, olive oil, and fish along with low consumption of dairy products. It includes even processed meat, red meat, and sweets along with the moderate consumption of wine during the meal.

If you check out the Japanese diet, it is focused more on the huge consumption of fruits, rice, and vegetables. This is followed by soy-used proteins, fish, and more importantly low consumption of fats and oils. Nowadays, the western diet is highly characterized with the usage of processed and red meat, refined grains, high-amount of fat dairy products, highly filled sugar drinks and desserts, along with the high alcoholic beverages, and less intake of fruits and veggies, fish, whole-grain foods, and poultry.

Such a diet does have a negative effect on health, and this often leads to the risk of getting obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer.

In comparison to the disease-rich Western diet, the traditional Chinese one had a healthy choice of wheat, rice, wheat products, and veggies along with low-source animal food that is still considered a healthy diet. The sad part is that countries like China have rapidly started to relinquish their traditional diet due to the huge economic development.

Asian Diet Helps in Controlling Diseases

Regarding the pattern of diseases, China has seen a huge remarkable shift where there has been a huge decrease in the prevalence of nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition and this is followed by the occurrence of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, etc.

Furthermore, China is seeing a huge shift in terms of higher intake of processed food, edible oils, and animal foods, and a decrease in the intake of coarse grains, legumes, and other major healthy food items. Such a shift is along with the changes in the eating behaviour and the major changes in the cooking habits that are making the Chinese diet better than the unhealthy Western one.

As per the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda, Indian foodstuff is fully enough and complete for our bodies. No doubt, there is no need for depending on the foreign foodstuffs because beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits, etc provide the necessary fibre, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, proteins, and minerals for our body.

India is a predominantly vegetarian nation that maintains a huge level of nutrition without the necessity of meat. Currently, in India, there is a huge increase in the number of diabetic patients and people suffering from obesity, and this is common among adults and kids. Research and studies show that this is due to the high intake of western fried food and snacks. Especially their consumption is more later in the day and such bad habit breaks the consistency of the traditional diet.

Difference Between Western and Asian Diet in Terms of Portion

The major difference between the Asian and Western diet can be seen in terms of the portion size consumed. Other western and American diets consist of having huge portions of food that are continuously piled on the plate. In the eastern and Asian diet, you can often see the various small bowls of healthy food and this contributes to a single meal that is shared by all at a single table.

All the diets that are healthy have a low amount of red meat content, and they are not processed food too. Also, they would be low in dairy consumption and even in sugar and alcohol. One common thing you might notice is that the unhealthy aspects in all diet are related to the high saturated intake of fat from fried foods, refined grain, processed food and drinks, and high quantity of sugar.

Asian Food Has Variety of All Things

If you check out the Japanese teishoku, you can see that the Japanese consume a lot of various types of food. Rather than having huge quantities of two or three foodstuffs ( like side salad and steak with potatoes, in the Western diet), Asian consume foodstuffs in small quantities but with various varieties in terms of food like soup, fish, pickles, rice, green veggies, root vegetables, etc.

The surprising aspect is that in Western culture, individuals often try to go on the diet by avoiding one food group or just by highlighting another group, whether it can be sugar and carbohydrates or increasing the intake of proteins.

However, the Japanese and other European cultures select the various kinds of all the things that assist them in maintaining the whole health balance. Frankly, when you are eating a bit of everything, you are giving your body a huge spectrum of necessary nutritional content and flavour that simply satisfies your palate.

Snacking Is Different

There is a huge difference in terms of snacking for both Asian and Western diet. In the eastern diet (Asian) it is more about providing nuts and fruits as a between-meal snack. While in the western diet of snacking, it is sweets, potato chips, cold meat, cheese, etc.

Also, the latter is filled with sugar, saturated fats, and various kinds of preservatives. As a refreshing drink, Asians consume a tea that is filled with low calories, antioxidants, and less sugar. With the Westerns, they prefer to go with a can (in certain cases one or two liters bottle) of coke, sugary soda, ice team, lemonade, beer, etc.

Regarding the desert, a traditional western or American would be cake, ice cream, pudding filled with custard or cream, apple pie, cheesecake, chocolate brownies, etc. But Asians like to go for a dessert that contains fresh fruits. They like to consume sweet things weekly and are thought of as a big deal, and something that is used as a daily routine.

Most importantly, alcohol is very less prevalent in the Eastern diet, but the drinking culture of the west is very high. So, the intake is lower for Asians and even with the diseases.

Eastern Diet Is Plant-Based

With an eastern diet, you end up having plant-based food three times a day compared to having poultry, meat, and seafood. Shellfish and fishes like mussels, crab, sea bass, tuna, abalone, yellowtail, clams, whelk, etc are consumed daily in countries like Japan and ones where there are huge coastlines.

Duck and chicken would be consumed weekly and red meat like pork and beef will be eaten mot more than once in the Asian diet. Some of the common veggies that are famous in the Asian diet are bean sprouts, eggplant, spinach, cabbage, bok choy, kale, lombu, snow peas, etc. Besides, melons, grapes, papaya, passion fruit, tangerines, dates, cherries, etc are the typical fruits that the Asian diet is filled with.

Sometimes the Asian diet will have certain raw and lightly steamed and stir-fried produce that is followed by nuts like cashews, almonds, and seeds like sesame seed, beans like mung beans or soy, tofu, lentils, beans, etc. Of course, these might sound somewhat different, however, they are still of nutritious value and are easily available in the west too. Various people aren’t still aware of it and haven’t made the point of really following it and using it in their healthy diet and lifestyle.

Asian Food Is Great for Digestion

One thing you might like about Asians is that they are very conscious regarding the aspect of combining their food in ways that lead to good digestion. Whenever the Japanese have fried or oily food, they always serve or accompany it with grated cabbage or radish and even use it as a garnish for digesting fatty food from their body.

Also, other major fermented foodstuffs like miso soup and pickles have healthy bacteria in them. These assist in digesting the food from the whole meals. This means that if you are consuming something heavy like any kind of animal product or refined foodstuffs like rice, the bacteria present in the fermented foodstuff will assist in digestion.

If you are having western fried foodstuffs, or creamy food, it would be hard to digest such animal proteins. In such a case, you need to add food items that can ease the digestion process. Here such food items are radishes, mushrooms, leafy greens, citrus, etc.

Asian Diet Is Broad and Western Diet is Quite Detailed

A decade back, there was not diet science or job profile like dietician to help us know what is nutritious for our body. In the East countries like China, India, and Japan, the people developed the easy way of depending on nature for various clues on being healthy and trying to rebalance the ailments of their body.

Here the most obvious one can be consumed as per the seasons as this is very much ideal and is based on the concept that earth is providing us with what that we need for our body’s health and as per the climate. Just check out the Japanese teishoku (which is a set meal) and you can see that the main setup of this meal would be the same one all around the year and it would be filled with some kind of vegetarian and animal protein, rice, vegetables, soup, pickles, etc.

Besides, there are other major attributes like how fast or slow the food gets digested by our body, whether they would make us feel relaxed or uplifted if the food makes our body to expand or contract. So, in other words, you must look at its properties to have a fair understanding along with your senses.

With the western diet, people really like to go into the detail of the nutritious makeup of the food. Here they would be using basic language like carbs, protein, vitamins, calories, fibre, minerals, etc, for keeping or informing the best ways of consuming food. Well, this is not bad as this provides you with the specific on how to alter the way your body needs to consume essential foodstuffs.

Final Verdict

Of course, the Asian diet is more of nature and it is based on what nature provides. That is the major reason why Asian food has huge popularity among people all over the world. They not only taste good but are filled with the required nutrition that makes your body healthy physically and mentally.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.

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