Carbohydrates have been given a bad rep of late, and you’ve probably attempted a no-carb diet at some point… only to eventually give up after having to walk past your favourite bakery for the 10th time.
We concur: no-carb diets are not humanly possible.
But how then, do all these Asians in Singapore look so well-maintained in the weight department?! After all that rice in their diet, as if to rub it in?
It’s about your diet as a whole
White rice, rice noodles… Walk into any Asian restaurant – Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese – and you’ll probably find that all the mains involve carbohydrates of some sort as the staple of the meal.
But what traditionally accompanies these carbs are also highly nutritious, from bone broth in Vietnamese restaurants to sashimi in Japanese eateries and a wholesome meal with meat and vegetables at your local cooked-to-order food centre. Carbs are just a single part of a diverse group of foods in the Asian diet.
Compare this with a carb-free meal of roasted chicken… slathered in preservative-ridden gravy.
It’s not just how much carbs are eaten, but what they’re eaten with, too. Interestingly, studies found that the glycaemic index (GI) of rice i.e. how much it raises sugar in the blood, when eaten by itself, was 96, whereas when combined with chicken breast, groundnut oil and vegetables, it was 50. (A GI of 55 or less is good, and anything above 70 is unhealthily high.)
Which goes to say, carb-rich diets can be healthy too. Take for example a plate of pasta with homemade sauce lovingly cooked with all the good stuff – tomatoes, olives, green herbs and such. That’s hardly as much damage as the same amount of pasta drowning in microwaved pasta sauce.
Are Asians even that much healthier?
Some call it “skinny fat”.
You can be skinny fat with a low BMI – statistically, a significant number of Asians fit this profile – whereby what lies beneath your BMI is actually a high body fat percentage, compensated by the fact that Asians typically have a smaller build as compared to Westerners.
Lastly, avoid being too quick to subscribe to stereotypes – there are larger Asians as there are lean Westerners. Don’t blame the genes – work towards what your body type allows, and feel good in your own skin.
By Pinky Chng, July 2016