The stereotype of the “skinny Asian” has been around for decades. Albeit a stereotype, there is some truth to it. But, when you think of all the deliciously vibrant food that Asian countries are famous for, you’re often left wondering, why are Asians so skinny?
Well, apart from their genes, several dietary and lifestyle factors play a part in proving this stereotype true. This article explores some common reasons Asians are skinny, along with some easy tips you can implement to reach your goal weight.
Why Are Asians So Skinny? 10 Factors to Consider
#1. A Diet Largely Consisting of Fresh Produce and Lean Meats
In most Asian countries, meals are pretty diverse, with the bulk of the ingredients being fresh produce. Unlike Western meals, where meat is often the predominant meal component, most Asian countries opt for stewed vegetables or lean proteins like fish — the quantity of greens is also almost three times that of meat!
Healthy snacks are also mostly incorporated with vegetables and fruits like the onigiri, a Japanese rice ball wrapped in tuna, vegetables, and seaweed. It is also common for Asians to drink tea, primarily green tea, along with meals or just throughout the day. It helps maintain regular detoxification while boosting overall health and immunity.
#2. Comparatively Smaller Food
If you have visited any Asian country, you’ll notice that the portion sizes tend to be much smaller. To put it into perspective — one American meal can easily be good for two (or three) people in Asia.
The size of the plates and the use of chopsticks may also contribute to why Asians are skinny, as chopsticks don’t allow you to shovel food in your mouth and encourage you to eat slower, chew your food better, and enjoy all the flavors.
#3. Desserts and Sodas Are Not Too Popular
In the US, sugary treats like cakes, ice cream, and cookies are made to be indulgent. However, in most Asian countries, the sugar content in most desserts is regulated, with many desserts also made with healthy ingredients like rice, red beans, and fruits.
Additionally, meals in the US are commonly paired with sugary drinks or juices, but meals in Asia are almost always accompanied by water and green tea.
#4. Rice Is A Staple
A common carbohydrate across Asia is rice, whether it’s white or brown rice or rice noodles. It is a filling and healthier type of glucose that our bodies can break down more easily than wheat.
Health-conscious Asians would opt for brown rice because of its higher dietary fiber content, which can also make you feel fuller longer and have fewer calories for you to worry about.
#5. Walking Is An Expected Mode of Travel
Many cities in Asian countries are designed to be more convenient and accessible by walking. This is evident in large cities like Tokyo and Seoul, where walking is part of the daily commute, with many people walking every day to get to the train or bus stop or even to work.
This simple habit helps keep them healthier, and those extra daily steps can help burn quite a few calories.
#6. The Cooking Method Is Mainly Boiling or Steaming
Asians may love their sauces and egg rolls, but you won’t find too many deep-fried foods in these countries. Often, Asian meals are served boiled or steamed.
These cooking methods help preserve the nutritional content and flavor of the food including vegetables while helping cut down the additional calories from oils.
#7. Fermented Food Is Encouraged
Fermented foods like miso, tofu, and kimchi are a few traditional Asian foods that are fermented. These are healthy probiotics-rich foods that are good for your gut health.
These prebiotics and probiotics also boost your digestive system and ensure that the nutrients from your meal are absorbed better. Not only are these delicious meal add-ons, but they can also promote weight loss.
#8. Limited Wheat Consumption
You’ll rarely find breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, or pizza in an average Asian person’s pantry. These foods are typically considered to be treats that should be consumed moderately on occasion.
These wheat products are fattening and addicting. Wheat can also cause blood sugar spikes and lead to excess weight gain.
#9. A Different Approach to Food
While the primary purpose of food is to satisfy hunger, many Asian cultures also approach food with the purpose of healing their bodies. For instance, Koreans eat kimchi for almost every meal because it is a superfood that can boost the digestive system, reduce cholesterol levels, and is a tasty detoxifier.
Meanwhile, the Japanese have miso soup that is rich in probiotics and helps with gut health, boosts the immune system, and its turmeric content also helps flush out toxins from the body. Every herb and spice used not only enhances the flavors of a dish but also offers many health benefits.
#10. Genetics Are A Contributing Factor
Asians are genetically built differently, with lower BMIs, thinner arms and legs, and less muscle mass. While this does play a role in their general health, other elements also impact their weight.
Some factors mentioned above, like constant movement, lifestyle, and diet, play a more prominent role in Asians being leaner and slimmer throughout their lives.
Asians Are Skinny, But Are They Healthy?
People in many Asian countries like China and South Korea are generally more health-conscious. Most of them also grow up eating healthier food compared to people in Western countries.
Their diet doesn’t have as many additives, fat, dairy, or preservatives and typically includes plenty of fiber-rich food, fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, and herbs and spices.
However, it is important to note that the newer generation faces more pressure to maintain a skinny appearance.
On the other hand, today, Malaysia and Thailand are considered the “most obese” countries in Asia. This is a rising problem in other neighboring countries as well. The easy accessibility of international junk food in local stores has also made children more susceptible to unhealthy dietary habits. Additionally, the necessity of commuting long hours for work and unhealthy work setups have encouraged a more sedentary lifestyle.
7 Tips for Weight Loss
If you are interested in dropping some pounds in a healthy, sustainable way, here are some of the tips and tricks you could try:
#1. Learn about portion control and consume less food by slowly adjusting your food portions.
#2. Drink plenty of water and gradually introduce tea to your daily food intake.
#3. You can never have too many fruits and vegetables.
#4. Incorporate more whole grains into your diet.
#5. Walk anywhere if you can.
#6. Increase your protein intake through soy products like tofu, soy milk, tempeh or miso, beans, nuts, seafood, and legumes.
#7. Avoid snacking as much as possible. If you need to, opt for a fruit.