Thursday, 9 August 2012

My Mediter-Asian Eating Style

My son's favourite food type is Asian, especially yum cha.  He loves steamed dumplings, rice, stir fry's and soups.  My daughter's favourite food is Italian.  She loves pasta, gnocchi, pizza, and antipasto platters.  My husband and I love both.  When I started reading about the role of diet in managing MS and decided to adopt a more healthy way of eating, I noticed that many Asian and Mediterranean dishes suited the diet criteria outlined by Roy Swank in his book The Multiple Sclerosis Diet.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional diet of Crete, Greece, and Southern Italy in the early 1960's.  At this time, these countries had low rates of chronic disease and high life expectancy.  Interesting that it was only southern Italy, as northern Italy has a diet higher in meat and dairy.  Co-incidentally MS in Italy has a north-south gradient, meaning there is a higher occurrence in the north.

Source - Oldways

The key elements are:
  • Physical activity - I'm not sure about the clip art in the pyramid?  They don't look Greek or Italian to me.
  • The main part of each meal is plant based with wholegrain cereals (bread, pasta, polenta, cous cous, rice) and beans and nuts.
  • Animal protein - mainly seafood with some poultry.  Meat is not as common, eaten only a few times a month.
  • Dairy is consumed in small amounts
  • Sweets and desserts eaten a couple of times per week rather than daily.  Many desserts are fruit based.
  • Cooking oil - olive oil.  Bread is eaten dipped in olive oil rather than with butter
  • Minimal processed food.  Fresh produce is usually grown locally and eaten seasonally.

The Asian Diet

Oldways introduced the Asian food pyramid in 1995, as a model for healthy eating (similar to the Mediterranean pyramid), due to the low incidence of chronic illnesses in the Asia region.

The key elements are:
  • Physical activity (I think the ballerina is meant to be doing yoga?)
  • The main part of each meal is plant based with rice or noodles, and beans and nuts.
  • Animal protein - mainly fish, with some poultry and pork.  Meat is not eaten as much and usually only in small amounts.
  • No dairy (except in India - where they eat paneer, ghee and lassi)
  • Sweets eaten a couple of times a week rather than daily.  Many desserts are rice or fruit based.
  • Cooking oil - peanut and soy bean oil, coconut oil, ghee (India)
  • Minimal processed foods

It's not just for MS

Below is a worldwide map of cancer incidence.  You can see a larger version at Cancer Research UK here.  According to GLOBOCAN there were an estimated 12.66 million new cancer cases and 7.56 million deaths in 2008.  Australia tops the list.  Not in total but in rate per 100,000 population.  Australia/NZ has a rate of 313, Northern America 300, and Western Europe is 287, compared to South-east Asia 141. 


According to this map, Africa is the place to be. What food do they eat there? Well interestingly, a very similar food pyramid to the Asian and Mediterranean, based on plants and whole grains, with seafood and only small amounts of meat, dairy, and sweets.

Another point to note.  According to Oldways, when Asians stop eating their traditional diet and adopt a more Western diet and lifestyle, their health is affected and they may face problems such as obesity and diabetes.  China now leads the world with the highest incidence of diabetes, and heart disease is growing - see article based on New England Journal of Medicine here.

What did I Learn from all this?

Eat in a Mediterranean or Asian style
Grow my own vegetables (or buy fresh) and eat seasonally
Have a largely plant and wholegrain based diet (include more vegetarian meals)
Eat fish and seafood a couple of times a week
Eat small amounts of other animal protein such as poultry but as part of a dish, rather than as the whole dish (choose chopsticks over a knife and fork)
Eat sweets and dessert a couple of times a week as a treat rather than everyday
Make up for the above by having a glass of red wine with dinner
Go back to a more traditional, old-fashioned way of eating
Try to change from a sedentary to a more active lifestyle (without the bad clip art).
So now when the kids ask what's for dinner, I say "Oh something Mediter-Asian".


  1. Teehee...Mediter-Asian...LOVE it! Love all your informative posts too Kylie, keep em coming :))
    Cas x

  2. Yes love that term Mediter-Asian!
    I am easily converted adults, not so easy...sigh!
    After all the years I gave them really healthy meals, they have not really kept it up. I did my best and hope they will change as time goes by x

  3. I must say I was floored at the worldwide cancer chart!!! We obviously all need to look at our diets. Thanks for all the info, it's all very interesting....B:)

  4. We are firm converts to Asian meals after many trips to Japan/China. Whenever we dine out its always at Asian restaurant. The ingredients taste pure and healthy.


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