- Asian Cuisine- Gastronomy
- What IS the Asian Diet
- Common ingredients and their associated health benefits
- Which Asian cuisine is healthiest and why?
- Healthiest Asian dishes
Asian Cuisine – Gastronomy
Asian Cuisine is a rich gastronomic experience which is as healthy as it is delicious. It’s also a great way to get in touch with the culture, and is considered to have a huge range of health benefits!
The benefits of an Asian diet have received a lot of attention in recent years as more data is released indicating that chronic diseases (eg. heart disease, diabetes, cancer) are much less prevalent in Asia than in Western countries.
What IS the Asian Diet?
There isn’t a ‘single’ Asian diet as the region is made up of over 40 countries with great diversity in their diets. However, for thousands of years the people of Asia have indulged in a wholesome, plant based diet including a diverse range of rice, noodles, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fresh fruits, with minimal meat and dairy. Fish and seafood is common in coastal communities, and small amounts of meat are incorporated inland.
The dishes are often cooked quickly and over a high heat. This allows for the retention of nutrients and flavour, resulting in less reliance on oil, salt or sugar which oftne used to enhance flavour typically lost through the cooking process. The variety of spices and herbs available throughout the region combine to make the region a world leader in tasty, healthy cuisine.
Common ingredients & their potential health benefits
Asian diets are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, which protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules created through normal metabolic processing and through exposure to harmful external pollutants such as smoking, x-rays, industrial chemicals. Free radicals have been linked to aging and a host of diseases due to their ability to cause chain reactions.
Ginger has a long history of use in traditional and alternative medicine. Gingerol is the main bioactive compound responsible for powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It’s also been used to aid digestion, reduce nausea and help fight common colds.
Garlic is commonly known for aiding conditions relating to the heart and blood systems, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and the hardening of arteries. It’s also been used to reduce symptoms of the common cold and osteoarthritis.
Green Tea is considered the healthiest tea because of it’s high levels of polyphenol (an antioxidant) and lower caffeine content. It is thought to have a positive effect on brain health and memory, and potentially protect against brain diseases.
Sesame Oil is a brilliant flavour enhancer and has some powerful nutrients hiding in it too! High in antioxidants and amino acids, it helps fight damaging free radicals and boosts the mood-lifting hormone serotonin.
Seaweed isn’t only sustainable, it’s also packed with nutrients including iodine which is thought to support thyroid function, and iron which is critical if you choose to follow a low meat or vegetarian diet.
Kimchi is a Korean accoutrement gaining in popularity due to the probiotics it contains supporting a healthy gut. Traditionally made from fermented cabbage, the taste (and smell) can take some getting used to, but the health benefits make it worth the effort!
Which Asian Cuisine is ‘healthiest’ and why?
Vietnamese & Thai are widely considered to be the healthiest in Asia due to the high amounts of fresh herbs and vegetables, as well as traditional bone broth based soups packed with antioxidant aromatics such as ‘Pho’ and ‘Tom Yum’. Fried foods do feature but they tend be minimal, and the meals are generally well balanced with minimal saturated fats due to the low levels of meat and dairy.
Vegetable Fried Rice!
If cooked correctly, using very little oil, lots of vegetables and a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil to flavour and season, this well balanced dish is quick and easy to perfect at home. It’s also found across the whole of Asia, with lots of variety by region and season.
A rice noodle bone broth soup, with herbs, spices, vegetables and/or meat. It’s a very popular native dish, served in almost every household and acceptable for any meal, anytime, anywhere! This dish is a great source of energy, full of protein & nutrients and very low in fat.
Fresh Spring Rolls
Featuring a medley of fresh vegetables, herbs, noodles and occasionally mango, tofu or prawns, all wrapped up in a rice-paper skin and served with a delicious (and probably spicy) dipping sauce. These delicious appetizers can help to ‘fill you up’ with light, nutritious, low-calorie vegetables before embarking on a heavier main course.
The shredded unripe papaya is the star ingredient and combines with any variety of beans, pomelo, tomatoes, nuts and chilli to become a staple addition to any feast. The vibrant, and refreshing combination of ingredients provides enough vitamin C to fulfill a whole day’s needs in one serve!
Ayla Lewis-Wharton – Originally from the UK, based in Asia for several years.
I edit content. Previously a chef on Superyachts, I’m now a mother, a wife, a lover of all good things, and I like to sing and dance when nobody’s watching.