Up to 25 years ago, until fast foods came along, China had one of the lowest obesity rates. (Japan now has the lowest.) What are some of the diet secrets that help Chinese people maintain their weight despite a culture that revolves around food? A closer look into the Chinese diet, lifestyle and attitude toward food will shed some light.
Chinese dining is often accompanied by a pot of hot tea. This ancient practice is one of the best weight-control measures. According to Bodybuildingforyou.com, researchers are uncovering the fat-whittling capabilities of tea, particularly oolong tea, one of the most common teas drunk by the Chinese. A study conducted to determine oolong’s effect on metabolic rate and fat accumulation in men (see References) showed that men who consumed full-strength oolong tea increased their metabolic rate by 3.4 percent and fat oxidation by 12 percent.
Enjoy a cup of hot tea after every meal, not just for relaxation but also to speed up your metabolic rate and keep your weight down. There are many kinds of oolong tea; some of the more common types include Sui Xian, Bai Du Dan, Wuyi Yancha and Tie Guangyin.
Forget Calorie Counting
Chinese people don’t count calories but have always relied on a diet low in fats, sugar and plenty of whole grains and vegetables. Most Chinese recipes call for meat that's cut into bite-size pieces, thereby reducing the amount of meat in each portion. Restricting yourself to a set number of calories can backfire as food cravings can set in, resulting in binges. Enjoy a wide variety of food, making sure that it’s low in saturated fats and sugar and high in fiber, and you'll have a better chance of maintaining your weight.
Balance of Yin and Yang
While most fad diets focus on a few chosen food groups and eliminate other supposedly "bad" foods, Chinese cooking focuses on the balance of yin (food that cools the body) and yang (food that warms the body). For instance, carbohydrates are seen as yin and protein as yang. If you examine most Chinese dishes, you will find a combination of vegetables with protein and carbohydrates (rice, brown rice or noodles). Three main food groups (carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals) are represented and this combination helps to maintain a stable blood sugar level, which in turn reduces unnecessary calorie intake.
Food as Medicine
Chinese cooking has always incorporated a variety of herbs and spices to boost health and prevent disease, such as medicinal soups consumed on a regular basis. Some well-known Chinese herbs that boost metabolism are ginseng, cinnamon, ginger, eucommia bark and atractylodes (commonly known as baizhu). Other herbs such as citrus peel, hawthorn berry and magnolia are used to prevent unhealthy fats from accumulating in the body.