Nobody eats like the Western world. We have perfected the art of serving giant portions of, well, everything. When we go to restaurants, we receive heaping platters of anything we want, and despite the to-go containers stacked in the back room, we devour it all, rarely leaving more than a bite or two on the dish. At home, the situation is much the same. Yes, the portions are decidedly smaller and the food somewhat healthier. But, we continue to consume items that are not necessarily good for us at rates that certainly are not. This diet, high in red meats, refined grains and fat, is affecting more than our waist lines. It’s affecting our mortality.
Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently studied the effects of diet on patients with stage III colon cancer. All of the participants, who had undergone similar treatments for their disease, were polled during chemotherapy and six months following its completion. Those who reported eating a more Western diet were found to have a higher rate of recurrence and death. In fact, they were three and a half times more likely to have their cancer return. The lack of fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish and abundance of red meats and desserts were hurting the patients’ recoveries. They were also, incidentally, putting them at a higher risk for heart disease, obesity, hypertension and many other health complications linked to diet. No matter what your current health status, a tendency towards the Western diet is not good for you. Where in the world, then, should you find your diet tips?
Look to the Japanese. Falling second only to a small country in the Pyrenees Mountains, Japan’s life expectancy is years above the United States’. Moreover, the Japanese are reported to live healthy, disability-free lives well into their seventies and have one of the lowest obesity rates in the world. Their diet is made up of everything that the Western one is not. To begin with, they serve their meals in small dishes so as to lessen the amount consumed in one sitting. Also, vegetables and fruits overwhelm the Japanese diet. As many as four or five different types of vegetables can be found in one meal (even at breakfast) and fruits, rather than being the occasional snack, act as dessert. Fish and soy products provide the Japanese with plenty of omega-3s and protein. And when a carb fix is needed, rice fills the plate. Now, the Japanese aren’t perfect. You don’t have to start mirroring them bite for bite. You should simply take into consideration their habits when deciding what to have for dinner. Include more fruits and vegetables. Mix tofu or salmon into the weekly meal plan. Try rice (brown not white), and serve less. Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it’s what’s going into your body.