10 Asian Health Secrets
By Annie Guo | Asian Avenue magazine
Asian Americans experience the longest life expectancy of any ethnic group in the United States (specifically, Asian American women at 85.8 years). So what’s the secret? Nutrition and diet, holistic well-being and exercise all impact our health. Happiness and stability provide us mental wellness, which is just as important as our physical state. Apply these secrets, or more so tips, that will lead to a healthier, happier you.
1) Drink green tea 6-8 times per day. It increases your metabolism and curbs your appetite for sugary and processed food. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that have powerful effects on the body. This includes improved brain function, fat loss, a lower risk of cancer and many other incredible benefits.
2) Meditate. Research has shown that meditation resets the brain. It provides relief from stress and anxiety, decreased blood pressure and hypertension, lower cholesterol level, better concentration and restful sleep. Tip: Begin by sitting with a straight back, then concentrate on only one thing at a time.
3) Hara Hachi Bu is a Confucian teaching that means to only eat until you are 80% full. This is an Okinawan cultural habit of calorie control. Stopping at 80% capacity is a good strategy to avoid obesity without going hungry because the stomach’s stretch receptors take about 20 minutes to tell the body how full it really is and 20 minutes after stopping you will really feel full. In Okinawa, heart disease rates are 80% lower than in the U.S. Tip: Smell your food. Take small bites and chew your food thoroughly. While chewing, take a few extra seconds to register what you’re tasting. What new flavors do you taste? What is the texture like?
4) Practice tai chi. Another great way to reduce stress, is to practice tai chi. Originally developed for self-defense, tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that’s now used for stress reduction and a variety of other health conditions. Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements. Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. In fact, because tai chi is low impact, it may be especially suitable if you’re an older adult who otherwise may not exercise.
5) Switch to brown or multigrain rice. Brown rice is rich in selenium which reduces the risk for developing common illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis. One cup of brown rice also provides 80% of our daily manganese requirements. Manganese helps the body synthesize fats. Brown rice also promotes weight loss and is high in fiber. The fiber content of brown rice keeps bowel function at it’s peak since it makes digestion easier.
6) Quit smoking. The leading cause of death for Asian Americans is cancer. To reduce the risk of cancer, stop smoking and avoid tobacco. According to the Surgeon General, quitting smoking is the single most important step a smoker can take to improve the length and quality of his or her life. As soon as you quit, your body begins to repair the damage caused by smoking. Tip: Visit the Colorado Quitline at www.coquitline.org or Asian Quitline at www.asiansmokersquitline.org for more information.
7) Eat more fish and seafood. Fish and seafood are low in fat and high in protein. Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential nutrients keep our heart and brain healthy. The omega-3s in fish also keep your skin looking nourished and your hair shiny. Since our bodies do not produce omega-3 fatty acids, we must get them through the food we eat.
8) Foot Reflexology has been a Chinese treatment for thousands of years. Reflexology increases the flow of energy and improves circulation throughout the body, which means that blood and oxygen are being cycled through more effectively and that oxygen reaches vital organs. Tip: Visit a reflexology spa for an one-hour foot massage that also includes arms, neck shoulders and back for less than $30.
9) Eat fruit. Eating a diet rich in fruit may reduce risk for stroke, other cardiovascular diseases and type-2 diabetes. Fruits are low in calories and fat and are a source of simple sugars, fiber, and vitamins, which are essential for optimizing our health. One to 2.5 cups of fruit are recommended each day, depending on how many calories you need. Tip: When you crave sweets, replace desserts, such as cake or ice cream, with fruit. It’s sweet and much lower calorie and better for you!
10) Stay active and spend time with family. Life expectancy in Japan is extremely high. There are a number of people over 100 who are still active and mentally healthy. In addition to the Japanese diet that plays a factor, others hint at the relative happiness and stress-free lives of Japan’s elderly, who can live to older ages without hefty health bills thanks to the help of their children. Another factor is that retirees in Japan stay active and many of them continue working by choice and not economic necessity. Studies of areas such as Kagoshima Prefecture and the Amami Islands, which are known for even higher rates of life expectancy than the national average, found that living with purpose may also keep people alive longer. It was found that elderly residents of these areas were more involved in the local community and spent more time around younger family members. Tip: Continue to set goals for yourself and take steps towards accomplishing them. Be open to trying new things no matter your age!