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Asian Power Lunches
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:59:15 PM)

iet is an area of life in which Asian Americans were once thought to enjoy the pole position. Simply put, Asian foods have been seen as less fattening, less carcinogenic and more nutritious. Since the late sixties Asian staples like tofu, rice, fish and sprouts have been canonized as virtuous alternatives to beef, cheese, white bread and overdressed salads.
     In an age when obesity is pandemic and fatty foods have taken on the sinister overtones once associated with dioxin and lead, even the old saw about being hungry an hour later came to sound like a ringing endorsement of Asian restaurants. Indeed, Americans often enter them with the solemn, almost reverent air of terminal patients seeking a cure. Chopsticks are wielded like syringes. Special requests pertaining to MSG, brown rice and animal fats are passed back to the kitchen like prescriptions.
Power Lunch
Best Asian power lunches?

     But are Asian meals really E-tickets for gluttons?
     A calories-be-damned American-style workaday lunch might consist of two pieces of fried chicken (500 calories and 35 grams of fat), mashed potatoes with gravy (280 cals., 10 grams), 4 ounces of cole slaw (90 calories, 4 grams) and coke (175 calories). Or it might be a personal deep-dish pan pizza with the works (1,000 calories, 57 gr. fat) and a soda (175 calories).
     A damn-the-calories Asian lunch might consist of 10 ounces of boolgoki (650 calories, 30 gr. fat), bowl of short-grain white rice (270 calories), side dishes of pickled vegetables, egg and fish (about 150 calories, 5 gr. fat), bowl of radish soup (40 calories, 2 gr.) and a cup of corn tea (3 calories). An alternative might be a 3-item combo platter of, say, 5 ounces of pepper chicken (250 calories, 11 gr.), 6 ounces of country-style tofu (230 calories, 12 gr.), 8 ounces of fried rice (310 calories, 8 gr.), a fortune cookie (25 cals.) and tea (0 cals.).
     In our examples, the Asian lunches contain 35% less fat and 14% fewer calories.
     Once upon a time that would have been enough to win raves from nutritionists. No more. The onus is shifting from calories and fat to glycemic index (GI). High GI foods are those that break down rapidly into blood sugar. Under the GI regime, Asian cuisine is suspect because of its reliance on white rice. Despite being a fat-free complex carbohydrate, it metabolizes rather quickly into glucose. A jump in blood sugar levels triggers a surge of insulin, a hormone that tells cells to soak up excess glucose for conversion into glycogen, the precursor to fat. For this reason, high GI foods are now being blamed for obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
     The GI of white rice is as high as that of white bread and donuts, making it an even more potent insulin trigger than baked potatoes, whole wheat bread, most kinds of bagels or even angel food cake. The answer, exhort nutritionists, is to eat more hi-fiber carbohydrates like brown rice and barley, both of which also contain an abundance of the B-complex vitamins lacking in traditional Asian diets. Unfortunately, most people find these substitutes to be as appetizing as bran flakes. Some experts even urge salvation in high-protein-low-carbo diets, precisely the regimen we've been shooed away from the last four decades.
     Are we holding our breaths waiting for resolution of the carbs-vs-protein debate?
     Hardly. We turn instead to a huge panel of experts who have dedicated their mealtimes to clinically testing every Asian dish from daengjang-chigae to thom yum goong. That would be you.
     What are your favorite Asian power lunches, the dishes that may not satisfy the ascendant nutritional dogma but do satisfy your tastebuds and, what's more, leave you feeling juiced and beatific.

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Can't we simply appreciate the benefits of both Western and Asian types of diets? Both have their good and bad sides. The Asian diet is low in calories and fat, low in meat and high in veggies and tofu. It's been shown that Asian women in Asia have a much lower rate of breast cancer, probably due to the isoflavones in tofu. But the American diet is good too, it is widely varied. We get more calcium from milk which builds strong bones. I like the fact that living in a big city I eat very different foods on a regular basis-from KFC to Thai, pizza, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, etc.

I think the reason that most Americans are overweight is simple- we eat too many calories, our portion sizes are too large and we don't exercise enough. We as a country can certainly work on improving our health. But I am very tired of people bashing America as a drive-through cultural wasteland.

Moderation is key. So is respect for everyone else's culture. So please stop bashing all Americans.
   Tuesday, December 10, 2002 at 07:32:54 (PST)    []
Hey western Chick,
Try whole food markets, and please don't use the fast food industry as a spokesperson for the American diet. It is as varied as an Asian or European one. Perhaps more, since American food is combined of Mexican, Salvadorean, Italian and many other Nationalities.
I am sorry you seem so bitter about our American do know you are insulting Asian Americans and other races also by calling American culture "crap culture". Good for you on your vegetarianism, but I know no Asian personally that is a vegetarian, does it mean you look down your nose at them too?
I guess since American food is ALL bad and the culture is crap to you, as you said, then we should be equally biased and automatically think that all Europeans slurp coffee, drink heavy beers, and eat greasy little pastries with their noon tea?
Stop being insulting.
tired of idiots
   Friday, December 06, 2002 at 17:29:29 (PST)    []
I think asian diet is good, but in terms of growth i think eating it will stunt your height because the body won't get its protein requirement. just look at young asians eating western diet now like in korea they are getting big.
i'm white but all my family is short so there is no genetic to get tall, but i ate heaps of meat and milk and i've gotten to 187cm, over 6'1, which is towering over my family. i'm sure asian height potential is the same as white, just that they cant reach it with a lack of milk and meat. if their diet were western the tall average and short people would be same as in america no doubt.
about the soy, well asian women are much closer to average white height than asian men which of course shows the men's height is not genetic, just about food, and the soy which gives too much female hormone. after all in history before western diets whites were very short.
beanman    Friday, December 06, 2002 at 16:30:18 (PST)    []