Food for Mood, Healthy Living

Oxford – Cornell Study on the Asian Diet

January 20, 2015

A Comparison: Asian and American Approaches to Diet Done by Cornell-Oxford-China

There are lots of new diets emerging, but I think it’s important to look at a diet that has a long standing history with evidence on positive health effects.  For example, we don’t really know if during the Paleolithic period people didn’t die of cancer and heart disease.  However, I do love the Paleo movement because it’s made people more aware of eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds.  It has also kept people off of processed foods because they usually contain processed grains.  The Paleo diet also substitutes grains with vegetables, which is what a lot of Asian dishes are centered around.  

While I don’t support the breads and grains in this country because of the way they are processed, I do think organic and sprouted whole grains, like rice and spelt, in small quantities is healthy.  I think a newer version of Paleo will eventually evolve.  Looking at how the Asian culture eats and how much healthier their population is than Americans may change our minds on how many vegetables and grains we eat.

Here is what they found about the differences in the health of the two populations:

  • For every 5 American women who die of heart trouble, only 1 Chinese woman suffers from the same fate
  • Heart disease kills 1700% more middle aged men in the US and roughly 900% more men in Italy or Greece, than in China
  • China has the lowest rate of breast cancer in the world
  • Chinese women get half the calcium of American women, yet have much lower rates of osteoporosis
  • As economic reforms in China allow an invasion of fast-food joints, cities are starting to see a rise in heart disease, obesity, and diabetes-the diseases of nutritional extravagance.

Here is what they found about the difference in their diets:

  • China: 70% of calories come from carbohydrates; 15% from fats.
  • America:  50% of calories come from carbohydrates; 34% from fats
  • Chinese consume 300% more fiber and 1/3 less protein than Americans.
  • 89% of Chinese PROTEIN is from PLANT SOURCES
  • Comparisons among regions in China indicated that the more fruits, vegetables and grains at the table, and less meat and animal protein, the lower the rates of breast cancer and heart disease.
  • The Chinese eat, on average, beef or pork just 1-2 times a month; eggs and poultry a few times a week and fish, if available, is always welcome.  *Eating fish can be confusing nowadays. Click here to link to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s description on which kinds of fish are good for you.

Not one diet is right for everyone but this study is quite revealing.  Asian food uses lots of root vegetables to make savory cakes as well as rice powders to make crepes. This is similar to the paleo diet which is why I think the paleo movement is helping a lot of people to feel better.  The biggest concern I have about paleo is eating too much meat.  

Here is what seems to be a healthy protocol:

  • Eat more vegetables and fruit
  • Eat more fish  
  • Realize that eating dairy is not equivalent to having strong bones and choose to eat vegetables with calcium instead of dairy
  • Eat less beef and pork
  • Eat more protein from plant sources
  • Sprout your grains.  Click here for more information on sprouting.
  • Eat fruit for your sweet tooth cravings.


Also on the Chinese pyramid is daily exercise. I lived in China for over two years and I saw people on the streets every morning doing Tai Chi, especially older Chinese people.  So even if it’s walking up the stairs to your office or taking a walk after dinner, remember that daily exercise, however light, is important.


 Thanks for reading!



Photo credit.  Jennifer.  Flickr.

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1 Comment

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