People in Asian countries tend to have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and obesity than Americans, and they typically have longer lifespans. Researchers suspect that this is due largely to their diet: a low-fat, healthy diet that emphasizes rice, vegetables, fresh fruit, and fish, and very little red meat. The Asian diet emphasizes rice and whole grains, followed by fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Asians also make a daily habit of consuming green and black tea and consume plant-based alcoholic beverages such as sake, beer, and wine in moderate amounts. Small amounts of dairy and fish may be consumed daily; while sugary foods, eggs and poultry appear weekly in the typical Asian diet and red meats are eaten no more than once per month. Asian foods also include a wide variety of foods made from soybeans, from steamed edamame (whole soybeans in the pod) to tofu and natto, a sticky, high-protein breakfast staple that may help protect the brain. Asian diets also include high consumption of seaweed, which studies have shown may decrease the risk for heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.
Studies of Asian diets show that they are higher in phytoestrogens from soy products that provide hormone-balancing and antioxidant benefits, and the high fish consumption provides healthy omega-3 fatty acids that inhibit some forms of cancer. Also, green tea, a staple in the Asian diet, and generous quantities of fruits and vegetables offer antioxidants and cancer-fighting phytonutrients.
An enzyme found in the sticky natto threads, called nattokinase, prevents blood clotting, and may also help lower blood pressure.
Why this matters:
Over the decades, health food stores have offered dry seaweeds, a variety of soy products including tamari, tofu, tempeh, miso, soy milks and cheese, textured soy protein (TSP), and other products that are part of a traditional Asian diet and a Macrobiotic Diet. Historically, these items were not only considered “healthy”, they were only found in health food stores. Today, consumers continue to learn about and purchase these products in natural product stores.