Why Are Asians So Thin?

Okay, not all Asians are skinny, but the typical Asian person we think of is usually thin. Why is that? Here are some theories that might explain what Chinese, Japanese and other Asians do differently.

The rice enigma

The biggest question that arises in terms of figure and eating habits is why Asians are so thin when they still eat one specific food source that is high in carbs: Rice. Usually, rice is on the black list of things that active low carbers try to avoid. It is almost as if Asians prove supporters of a low carb diet wrong. But is this really the case?

What rice eaters in Asia still do differently

Image courtesy of stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net

It does not take long to come up with a whole bunch of things that people in Asia do differently despite eating rice. Keep in mind, we are talking about typical Asian people on the one hand and typical Western people on the other hand. I am not saying that all Asians are slim and all Americans are fat. There are even Asian Americans that can be either slim, fat or somewhere in between.

But now let's look at what we consider a typical Asian person. We think of people working very hard. They either work in factories or out in the fields. These people already burn a lot of energy working, and this is one explanation. Think of the typical Western person. They live in countries of the tertiary sector, the service industry. Most of these jobs involve sitting, using the phone and the computer.

Another reason: The way they eat their foods. I have been to Singapore and Malaysia before and it was surprising to me how rice can be served sometimes. In Malaysia, I had a rice and chicken meal (Nasi Ayam) that was very dry and hot. It was okay for me, I liked the chili taste, but it did not contain any sweet sauce. A typical American would probably have added ketchup if he had nothing else at hand.

So Asians often use rice as a side dish and that's it. Meat, hot spices, rice. End of the story. Or Vegetables, spices, rice. End of the story. Rice is their main staple food, but they are not craving for it all the time because they are not very familiar with chocolates, candy, bread, sweet and creamy foods. This makes a big difference. And as a dessert, they much more often will prefer a sweet fruit to a candy bar.

Look at how some Asians serve rice. Sometimes it's a very down-to-earth Nasi Ayam, as mentioned before, other times it's Sushi. Rice, fish, sea grass. That's it.

Slow carb instead of sugar bombs

Rice may have a high glycemic load, but compared to chocolate and other sugar bombs, it's rather slow carb. Rice alone, in a very humble meal, dissolves slowly enough not to cause insulin spikes, which makes it good enough to last until the next proper meal of the day. Asians know how to keep cravings low. Another thing you should know (I know this because some of my relatives are Singaporeans): Asians are not really that much used to soft drinks. This whole sweet, sparkling stuff is just awkward to them. They would rather drink tea or soy milk. Asians, in general, don't eat junk food as much as we do. And when they do, they are full much faster. At least that's what I think.

The usual suspects: genetics, metabolism, financial reasons

Some possible reasons may have to do with what's just in the nature. Maybe Asians are thin because they are genetically different. Many of them are smaller and built differently. They may also have a different kind of metabolism.

Then there are financial reasons. Europeans and Americans can often afford to be lazy and not cook their own meals. Instead of spending two hours in the kitchen, they just by a can of their favorite instant food (artificial flavors and unhealthy junk included). Asians have to be more careful. They are glad to buy rice in huge packagings, sometimes the weight of a teenager. Go to Asian shops and you will see what I mean. At home, they cook their own meals, and these meals, as we have seen, can be quite simple.

Comparing different Asian Americans

One thing you could do if you live in the USA or Canada, places with quite a good amount of people of Asian origin, is to look at people who have Asian ancestors. How do these people look. How many are skinny, how many average, how many are fat? Are they first generation, second generation, third generation Americans? How do traditional eating habits influence weight?

I am curious myself. For those of you who are Asian, I welcome your comments and theories about why Asians are in fact thinner than other people. Let the world know about it!
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