Asian Food Pyramid

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Putting The Asian Food Pyramid To Work


The Asian Diet Pyramid

The diet and health statistics of some Asian countries and peoples are indeed well and carefully recorded.

Fortunately, though, general patterns do emerge from available and reliable evidence.  Eating in Asia is often closely identified with religious practices or long-standing customs, and the recordation of these strictures is a source of excellent information.

The public health agencies of governments of Asian nations, long-concerned with the diseases of malnutrition that accompany scarcity and poverty, are now having to deal with fast-rising rates of the chronic diseases of affluence that accompany a turn to western-type diets richer in saturated fats than the traditional Asian diets.

These data make clear that peoples who ate traditional Asian diets and were not malnourished had, in general, low rates of the chronic diseases that now plague western populations and are beginning to alarm public health officials in Asian countries.

This Asian Diet Pyramid is based on a generalized summary of the traditional healthy diets of Asian populations, in the light of current nutrition research.

The basic premises of the Asian Diet Pyramid, have received strong international support from leading nutrition scientists and medical specialists as useful alternatives to the 1992 U.S. Food Guide Pyramid.

For example, the Food Guide Pyramid lumps some animal and plant foods together in a single group, while the Asian Pyramids carefully distinguish between plant and animal foods.

This central difference has drawn wide support to these traditional Asian diet pyramids, because it clarifies nutrition guidance for consumers in a vital area.

Rice provides 25 to 80 percent of the calories in the daily diet of 2.7 billion Asians, or half the world's population.

As to starch in the rice kernel: the percentage of the starch component amylose in its make-up determines the cooking quality.

During the last three decades, increases in urbanization, and the availability of cafeteria or hotel-based meals in the cities and towns explain the dramatic changes in the long-standing cultural dietary habits.

Tea, coffee, soft drinks, and snacks are now also consumed widely among both the middle-income and the poorer segments of the population.

Smoking and alcohol consumption have increased in many population groups. Physical exercise has decreased among the urban populations, contributing to obesity.

The dietary pattern of the Chinese population has changed (over the last twenty years). People's diets have become more westernized, especially in larger and medium sized cities.

A recognition of trends toward the westernization of the diet in some city populations has led to the formulation of policies to encourage maintenance of the traditional Chinese dietary pattern in which plant food constitutes the main body of the diet with moderate amount of animal food, and an increase in the variety of food.

Nutrition science is now discovering the reasons why these traditional cuisines are healthier than "modern" food.

It reflects the traditional, plant-based rural diets of Asia, which research increasingly shows to be linked to much lower rates of certain cancers, heart disease, obesity and, in some cases, osteoporosis and other chronic, degenerative diseases than those found in the United States.

The Asian Diet Pyramid emphasizes a wide base of rice, rice products, noodles, breads and grains, preferably whole grain and minimally processed foods, topped by another large band of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Daily physical exercise, a small amount of vegetable oil and a moderate consumption of plant-based beverages, including tea (especially black and green), sake, beer and wine also are recommended daily.

Small daily servings of dairy products (low fat) or fish are optional; sweets, eggs and poultry are recommended no more than weekly, and red meat no more than monthly.

"The nutrient composition of the traditional rural Asian diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet in that both are largely plant-based and both pyramids recommend that meat be consumed no more than once a month or more often in very small amounts," said T. Colin Campbell, Cornell professor of nutritional biochemistry, co-chair of the conference and director of the Cornell-China-Oxford Project.

"However, the Asian diet, which is significantly lower in total fat, may prove to be an even more healthful diet," Campbell added.

Dairy products, which are largely absent in the diets of Asia (except in India), are well regarded in this country for their calcium and are thought by many to inhibit the development of osteoporosis.

"Yet, the plant-based, dairy- free diets of much of Asia are linked to a low rate of osteoporosis," Campbell noted. "In fact, Western countries, with their calcium largely taken in the form of dairy products, have significantly higher rates of osteoporosis."

Campbell said he hopes that the Asian Diet Pyramid will bring further attention to the evidence that there are many traditional cuisines worldwide which are useful in promoting good health.

Food Pyramid for the elderly

The ubiquitous food pyramid we recognize from health class and the back of cereal boxes has been reinvented this time for persons over age 70.

Key to the 70+ Pyramid are the flag, representing supplemental vitamins, and the base of water, to prevent dehydration.

We know that older people need fewer calories because they tend to be less active and their body composition changes.

The base of the pyramid is eight, 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day to prevent constipation and dehydration.

The pyramid is narrower than the traditional pyramid because older individuals are less active and require less food to maintain the same weight.

However, they do require higher levels of specific nutrients like antioxidants to defend against free radical damage associated with aging, Vitamin D and calcium to keep bones strong, and folic acid to retain mental acuity and reduce the incidences of stroke and heart disease.

To get these vital nutrients, the pyramid emphasizes nutrient-dense foods like darker-colored vegetables and fruits that have higher levels of vitamins.

To ensure adequate fiber intake, the pyramid recommends whole grain products, and a fiber icon has been added to nearly every section of the guide.

As with the traditional pyramid, the modified food pyramid suggests using fats, oils, and sweets sparingly.

A flag tops the pyramid as a reminder that older individuals may not absorb enough of the vitamins that they require for healthy aging because of changes in metabolism.

Therefore, some vitamin supplements may be helpful.

Almost a third of older people develop atrophic gastritis and secrete too little gastric acid and pepsin to absorb Vitamin B12 from foods. They can absorb B12 in the pure form available in supplements."

For protein, the guide recommends grains, beans, fish, chicken with the skin removed, and lean meat.

<.....learns more on the elderly pyramid>


The above opinionated views and information serves to educated and informed consumer. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. It should not replaced professional advise and consultation. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions

Asian Food Pyramid
The Banting Diet
Diabetes Pyramid
Elderly Pyramid
Food Label
Healthy Food Pyramid
Preventive Nutrition

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