One of the biggest questions that I come across all the time is, “How do Asians eat so much rice, but yet they are so skinny?” Rice are filled with carbs and if carbs make you fat, then how do Asians eat so much rice but still remain lean? In this article, I’ll breakdown the reasons why Asians are able to remain thin despite the amount of carbs that they consume.
Asians have extremely healthy diets. They believe that everything should be in moderation. This means that they do not limit their foods. It’s rare to see an Asian not eat a certain category of food, but what you will see is that they tend to eat everything in moderation. If you ever get a chance to sit and eat in a traditional setting with an Asian family, you will notice that they won’t fill their bowls up with huge portions of rice. It’s usually a very small bowl of rice. See the picture below for a comparison of a takeout order of Chinese food vs the portion size that traditional Asians eat.
As you can see it’s quite a big difference. Asians believe that everything that you eat should be in moderation. Another thing is that rice is considered as a side dish in Asian culture and not the main meal. When Asians eat family style, they like to share a few main dishes while using the rice as a side dish.
Portion size for all types of food play an important role when it comes to eating as well. Even though, you might see Asians consuming a variety of “fatty” and high calorie dishes, this doesn’t mean that they will eat up the entire plate. Most of the time, they will only eat a little bit of everything. So in other words, they tend to eat a lot less overall compared to traditional American diets.
Asians tend to move around more. Most Asians will not consider walking around and doing minor weight work to be an exercise. People living in Asian countries have historically been more active than people living in the States. It’s not that they’re all lifting weights and running sprints and joining gyms; it’s that their average daily activity levels are higher. My parents would tell me all the time to go for walks after meals in order to help the digestion of foods.
My grandma would wake up everyday at 5am in the morning just to walk around the block to inhale some fresh air. Instead of driving to places, my grandma would walk to the grocery store. More movement throughout the day will help with metabolism as well as calorie burning. When you walk and engage in exercise, you will use more energy, and will help you clear out those store glucose in your system that was stored from the carbs.
Another thing is that traditional Asian people performed a lot of tough labor. Most immigrants will be working as a construction worker, chef, or something that requires heavy labor because their English is limited and that is the only type of job that they can get.
Kung Pao Chicken? Orange Chicken?
Traditional Asian diets are fairly clean. Most Americans eat the Americanized version of Asian food. I’m Chinese myself and grew up in a fairly Chinese traditional family setting. When you ask a foreigner what’s their favorite Chinese dish, they will tell you it’s Kung Pao Chicken, Orange Chicken, Sesame Chicken and so forth. All these type of dish contain an extremely high amount of sugar, calories, and carbs. The funny thing is that I never knew what these dishes were until my college years. I use to eat home most of the time and my family would never cook those dish. The type of chicken we would eat would be just plain steam chicken.
A plain steam chicken has much less calories, fat, sugar, and carbs than Kung pao chicken etc. We’re usually not a big fan of sweet stuff, so overall we keep the sugar low. Americans like to treat themselves to a good dessert after their meals. This can be anything from cheesecakes to brownies to ice creams, but most traditional Asian families would use fruit as a dessert. Growing up, we always had fruit on the table after our main course. That was our dessert. It was rare to see ice cream.
It’s also rare to find any type of dairy product in the main dishes. Dairy products such as cheese are usually not used in Chinese cooking. Most Asian diets contain a good amount of vegetable. Asians usually use vegetables along with rice to fill them up.
I hope this helps in answering the question, “why Asians are skinny even though they eat so much rice”. There are other factors that come into play as well such as genetics and many more, but those are the main reasons why Asians can maintain their weight even with a mass amount of carb intake.
Want to learn more about nutrition? Subscribe to our daily hand curated newsletter with the best articles, tips, and answers from top nutrition experts.