They just never had the evidence to tell them why. Now they do.
In a Chinese diet study, called the *China-Cornell-Oxford Diet and Health Project*, researchers have been collecting information on eating habits of over 10,000 Chinese since 1983. They've found that poor, rural Asians eat a humble, traditional diet-full of soy foods and high-fiber grains and vegetables, with few animal products. This, they say, is the reason for their good health.
Cholesterol levels are low, so low in fact that their average high cholesterol is still about equal to the lowest range in the United States. And only an average of 15 percent of deaths in Asia are due to heart disease, compared with more than 40 percent in the United States.
The super heart-saving Asian diet has won the approval of many nutrition experts because it emphasize plant-based, rather than animal-based, foods. Following this type of eating pattern may be your path to sound health and a long life.
**The Asian food pyramid**
Here are the basic groups that make up the Asian food pyramid. There are many ways to include these foods in your everyday eating without having to give up your own traditions. On the other hand, if you're tired of the same old meat and potatoes routine, why not buy a Chinese cook book and learn stir-frying.
**Grains:** According to the Asian Pyramid, most of your diet should consist of unrefined rice, millet, corn, wheat and other grains.
**Vegetables:** Whether from the land or sea, vegetables are a big part of the Asian diet. Including Chinese mustard greens, bok choy, spinach, chestnuts, lotus roots, and bitter melons.
**Soy:** Whether they're made into milk, tofu, paste, noodles or sheets, soy beans are an important part of the Asian diet. Rich in fiber and phytoestrogens, soy beans are a proven ally against heart disease and cancer.
**Legumes:** When you cut out animal products, you may worry about getting enough protein. A great vegetarian substitute is the small but mighty protein-rich legume. Peas and beans are a huge source of fiber. They should be part of at least one meal a day. Besides soybeans, other legumes you can try for an authentic Asian taste are mung beans, chick peas, and lentils.
**Nuts and seeds:** Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pine nuts and chestnuts are all popular ingredients in Asian cooking. Many are crushed and mixed with water to form nut milk, which is then used in sauces, desserts, and dressings. Try to get about a handful of nuts and seeds every day.
**Fats and oils:** Small amounts of peanut, golden sesame, soy, and corn oils may be eaten daily.
**Seafood:** Although it's often more expensive than chicken or red meat, fish is worth the extra pennies. It's full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein, but low in cholesterol. People living in places where eating fish is part of the culture have much lower cholesterol levels. To make fish go further in your budget, follow the Asian way and chunk it up in your favorite stir-fry or soup.
**Meat:** Compared with a Western diet, the traditional Chinese diet has much less protein. And what protein the Chinese do eat generally comes from plant sources, not animals. To help keep your arteries healthy, some experts recommend eating red meat only once a month and cutting back on poultry and eggs: no more than an average serving each week.
**Herbs:** No eating plan would be complete without the herbs and spices unique to that culture. Many not only add flavor and spice to the food, but some, like garlic, turmeric, and fenugreek, provide powerful heart protection too.
**Sweets:** If you want to follow the Asian diet, you must cut back on sugar and sweets. In Asia, fresh fruits, not sweets, are served for desert.