Going back to your culinary roots: does it make you healthier?

To my post about why Japanese people in Japan don’t get that fat, Kim left this terrific comment:

I’m not Japanese (I’m Korean). I was adopted and grew up in America. I didn’t have a weight problem growing up, my weight happened when I hit high school and beyond. When I was in college, I had a chance to go back to Korea for 3 months. I was just a little overweight, maybe around 10-15 pounds. While there, I ate everything in sight, but I also walked everywhere. I also ate more veggies, and more rice, and again, I walked everywhere…usually in atypical day I was walking close to 3-5 miles. When I came back to the states, my Mom automatically thought that I had been starving because I was so slim. Sure enough,1 month later I had gained back all my weight.

There was a big diet trend a little while back that spoke to that. It had people focusing on what their heritage is and then eating and being like the people from their heritage. Now whenever i feel the need to drop some weight, I heavily go back to my Korean roots and the weight just seems to come off. I usually have more energy and just feel more at peace. But it takes so much time, and that is a premium these days.

I must have missed that diet trend Kim mentioned somehow, but it resonates a lot with me. I do enjoy eating a wide variety of cuisines, but when I want to get back into balance and feel good physically and mentally, I always go back to Japanese cooking. I know that Japanese food is generally held to be quite healthy and things like that, but maybe there is more to that.

What do you think? Does going back to your own food heritage help you to feel better and healthier?

[Update:] The comments to this are some of the most thought provoking ones ever on this site. Opinion is divided amongst people who think that it all depends on where your culinary roots are (if you’re Asian or from the Mediterranean region, ok, if you’re from Northern Europe, not so ok) to those who think there might be something to the idea of your culinary heritage being inherently ‘right’ for you. People who have had a chance to go back to their ancestral home country for a visit seem to lean towards the latter opinion.

Several commenters from the U.S. and Canada have mentioned how they don’t have a particular culinary heritage - that it’s all mixed up. That’s understandable since both countries are largely made up of immigrants, but a little sad too. Maybe trying to discover ones culinary heritage, as mixed up as it may be, would be a very interesting exercise. It’s like exploring your geneology and finding new inspiration for food - sounds like great fun to me!

In any case, comments like these remind me what I love about keeping up this site for 4+ years. Food is for eating and enjoying of course, but food is such an important part of our existence too, and I love to ponder on it from a philosophical perspective. If you’d like to add your opinion too, jump in!

Don't miss any more recipes and articles! Subscribe to Just Hungry via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).
filed under

38 comments so far...

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

yes

I do the same thing. I was also told by a nutritionist (who was half-Japanese, for whatever that’s worth) when I was having stomach problems some time ago to return to eating Japanese food to correct them. By and large, it helped me overcome those problems at the time.

I, too, love all sorts of cuisines, but I do like to return to Japanese cuisine to feel more balanced. And, I don’t know what it is, but eating my mom’s cooking always makes me feel better if I’m not feeling well. Maybe it’s not entirely psychological? I don’t know.

yoko | 18 January, 2008 - 23:22

Hmm...

Well, my heritage is mostly Eastern European and Dutch… which means an awful lot of heavy cream and butter! Makes me feel heavy and yucky, honestly. I wonder if it’s really “eat for your heritage” or if it especially resonates with people whose heritage has a particularly healthy diet?

Dina | 19 January, 2008 - 00:52

Or maybe..

It sounds like it doesn’t matter that it is Korean OR Japanese, as both seem to focus on a higher consumption of healthier foods such as vegetables (in addition to the general lifestyles in both places focusing on an increased level of exercise). Like the comment above, eating like an Eastern European is highly unlikely to keep you trim, no matter your heritage. So eat more veggies and get more exercise? Sound familiar?

Marc Thayer | 19 January, 2008 - 01:00

Yeah, I’m with Marc. That

Yeah, I’m with Marc. That trend also nattered on about Mediterranean foods etc, but somehow the stodge factories of Northern and Eastern Europe got left out of the picture.

I’m almost entirely Swedish, and if I returned to a diet of herring, I couldn’t be responsible for my actions. Meanwhile, if I cook Japanese food, I feel great.

meg | 19 January, 2008 - 01:16

Heh. My food heritage, going

Heh. My food heritage, going back two centuries, is the rural American South, where seven generations of my forebears enjoyed a diet heavy on cured pork and pork byproducts (lard!), butter, cream and eggs. Meat was typically fried; vegetables boiled all afternoon (with a piece of fatback thrown in for flavoring), and everything was salted.

That kind of food still makes me feel “better” in the comfort-food sense, but if I ate like my ancestors did - without putting in the 12-hour days of hard physical labor they put in on farms and ranches - I’d drop dead.

Pat | 19 January, 2008 - 02:21

Healthy traditional food

Traditional Japanese and Korean cuisines are both very healthful. But so are many traditional ethnic cuisines such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Greek, Italian, and Provençal.

That’s why, in my opinion, there’s no need to just follow one culturally healthy style of eating — just pick and choose your favorite dishes from many different healthy-eating cultures. That’s what I’ve been doing for years, and I’ve not only discovered a world of delicious flavors, it’s kept me healthy and slim too!

Trudy | 19 January, 2008 - 02:34

I had to think about this a

I had to think about this a little. My culinary roots are German; lots of sausages and roasts and potatoes. It is quite heavy food. However, when I am at my grandmother’s house near Munich and she makes me sit down to eat, I really appreciate when I am putting into my mouth. I eat less than when I am just eating fast food and takeout while watching TV as I do when I’m back in the States, to my regret. In that sense, going back to my culnary roots is in one sense a healthy thing. I like this question a lot, and your site too!

Mark | 19 January, 2008 - 02:42

Has to be the focus...

Well, I think it is all about the choices you make about both what kind of food you eat in a particular cuisine and in what quantity you eat it.
I’m from Turkey. I grew up on the good part of it : lots of veggies, tons of fruits. Almost no processed food. Animal protein was a smaller part of our diet and it mostly came from dairy products and eggs. Frying was a very seldom event at our house. I don’t recall my mum dieting at all and she’s kept her figure very well. That is not necessarily the course everyone takes there, though. You could totally go on the baklavas and the kebabs (for stereotypical illustrative purposes). Many do so and gain..well..a lot. I really believe, depending on the household, you could have either way in any given cuisine.

Basak | 19 January, 2008 - 05:06

Culinary heritage?

I must say I was a little thrown by your question. Culinary heritage? Well, perhaps that’s part of the problem with some Americans like me. I have no culinary heritage. For me to claim my partially Scottish, Swiss, and Czech roots when I did not grow up eating authentic foods from those cultures would be the worst kind of fatuousness. If I have a culinary heritage it’s American (sorry, we need another adjective to mean “from the United States” so I don’t insult all my North and South American friends). American food heritage means absolutely nothing and everything in the best and worst meanings of having it all and not having any structure. On the other hand, there are regional foods and dishes that I grew up eating, but these do not consist of a “pure” cuisine that I can “return” to.

I grew up eating lox and bagels and tempura and burritos and stir-fries and roast chicken and lobster and big salads and pastas and ceviche… Tastes from the whole world at our table (and this was home cooking, not just eating out at restaurants). So, I guess my answer to your question is: what cooking heritage?

The only time I lose weight is I eat less and exercise more, which is what seems to be the main point of this discussion anyway. You can get fat on fatty bentos sold at the 7-11s in Japan, and by eating way too much rice. It’s the smaller portions and the walking that works for most Japanese, I’m sure. But nowadays I see more and more young Japanese kids here (I live in Japan) who are quite fat. I assume they are not getting out and walking and perhaps hitting the takeaway fried food.

Thanks for this post. Very interesting.

Jocelyn | 19 January, 2008 - 08:51

Russian-Scottish-Canadian...

Yeah. Butter, potatoes, sugar… Not to mention the America-influenced international flavor that you also find here in Canada. Pretty much the same as what everyone’s said.

My culinary “heritage” isn’t exactly healthy and I’ve never been a fan of it. Although I’ve mostly had Russian food. Not a whole lot of Scottish food… Maybe I should check that out. I’m thinking of roping my Mother into making Clootie Dumpling with me. XD That’s another topic, though.

I admit that there’s a certain comfort in returning to familiar or ancestral foods, but that doesn’t always equal a healthy body. It really does depend on your heritage. Korean, Japanese… Your culinary heritage works in your favor, even if a modern Japanese diet isn’t perfect, it’s on the right track.

For native North Americans from very mixed ancestral backgrounds, we’ll have to create something new or adopt!

In the end it’s the same old song and dance:

Portion control, lots of veggies, regular exercise.

Erica | 19 January, 2008 - 11:23

My family came to America

My family came to America from Ireland and Scotland, where the culinary traditions seem to be “put it in a pot and boil it til it’s grey.” It does have its good points, Shepard Pie has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Shortbread is another wonderful thing, though a standard recipe has a whopping two cups of butter. Not to mention the cream teas we enjoy with our neighbors, the Brits. If I could eat clotted cream every day, I would, and I’d be in big trouble.
However, when I think about it, despite the butter and cream and fat, it is nice to make an old fashioned, traditional recipe now and then. I wonder if this is because the more “traditional” a recipe, the fewer processed ingredients it has in it. When I make a Shepard Pie it’s always with fresh veggies, lean meat, and a mind full of love for my family who would always make it for my birthday. It’s not the healthiest dish, but I feel good eating something that isn’t from a can or a box.

Nico | 19 January, 2008 - 22:07

I think there’s healthy,

I think there’s healthy, and there’s healthy. As someone mentioned above, hearty meals to keep you going through a long day of hard work are healthy, especially when those meals are all made from scratch with fresh veg and a lot of relatively unprocessed foods. There’s also the difference between celebration foods and everyday foods. I think most cultures traditionally eat pretty simple wholesome food compared to a fast food/processed Western diet, and I think the higher levels of activity that went along with that makes the most difference.

I always joke that my Latvian grandmother considered any sliced vegetable dressed with sour cream and salted “salad”, but she was the child of farmers and never lost the habit of hard physical work, right up into her 80s. The rest of her diet was mostly simple stews, boiled vegetables and grains, and bread.

linsey | 20 January, 2008 - 08:15

Well, like some of the other

Well, like some of the other comments have shown, it surely depends on the kind of culinary heritage. Indeed, the mediterranean and the asian cuisines seem to me to be the healthiest. As for my own culinary heritage, not my acquired likes over the years, I have to say that I can choose between the Dutch kitchen and the Indonesian kitchen:-). Dutch cuisine may also be very frugal, not in the sense of taste, but in the sense of ‘not much ado’. I like Dutch food the way my mother makes it: with garlic, herbs etc. But I prefer the indonesian kitchen! Although I’m not sure if it’s very low-fat…at least, when we eat it, we go all out.

Emmy | 20 January, 2008 - 13:36

I think the idea here is not

I think the idea here is not that one culture favors butter and cream and sausage and one favors veggies and rice. But rather that your ancestors, wherever they’re from, had some kind of culture-specific diet and it served them well. That is, they obviously were able to healthily reach the age of sexual maturity and procreate, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. And if you share some genetic metabolic rate with these people, then maybe there’s something in your genetic makeup that pairs well with that particular group of foods.

That said, I think this is probably impossible for most Americans & Canadians, since both countries are almost entirely populated by immigrants. So we tend to have such a mixed genetic and cultural heritage that figuring this all out could be a bit difficult. I, myself, am of Sicilian, Irish, English, & German heritage of varying percentages and they all came over to the US at different times, so this would require quite a bit of research and experimentation. For someone who knows with more certainty their cultural heritage (i.e. someone born in a relatively homogenous population and whose relatives as far back as anyone knows were born to the same population), this might be a simpler exercise.

All that said, I love food from all over, and I manage to keep a reasonable weight without denying myself much. I just listen to what my body wants.

Megan | 20 January, 2008 - 15:37

Southern Fried Heritage

I, too, am a native of the American South and grew up with a coffee can of bacon grease under the sink (for seasonin’). I wouldn’t call it the healthiest of cuisines, although my rural relatives placed much more emphasis on vegetables than the popularized version (think Paula Deen) of our foodways. Still, I don’t think it’s the best weight-loss regimen, even for us natives. I’m not convinced by the genetic argument. I do agree, however, with the other southerner that this diet did not lead to obesity in our ancestors because they mostly engaged in hard physical labor and needed the calories and fat. In fact, the greater prevalence of physical exertion in our traditions seems to be the common thread here.
Not that I don’t cook up a mess greens and cornbread from time to time…..

anon. | 20 January, 2008 - 17:18

really interesting

The comments are really thoughtful and interesting…I love it! (hugs you all) :)

maki | 20 January, 2008 - 17:46

Culture Specific Diet

I think Megan is correct about culture specific diet. After years of illness and discovering food allergies were the culprit I eliminated all the offending food. I am now eating a basic Mediterranean village diet which my people would have eaten. I am first generation Canadian and grew up on processed food. That’s what I ate until my body couldn’t take it anymore.My family wanted to fit in so we lost most of our culture for the sake of being Canadian.
It’s so good to be on the road to better health!!

alexsandra | 21 January, 2008 - 06:55

I saw Kim’s comment too

I saw Kim’s comment too and was thinking about it.

When my husband initially came to the UK from Japan he put on weight - he sought out food he liked that he couldn’t find easily over there. After the first year, he’d settled down to eating the way I eat and now he’s back to how he was.

One thing that has made a huge difference is that after that first year, we settled in an apartment without an oven, and without a deep fat fryer (I made him keep his in storage). This means that most of the English dishes I know how to cook aren’t on the menu anymore. We never use a microwave either.
The dishes we enjoy making and eating are usually Mediterranean, Japanese and Korean and fish and seasonal vegetables feature strongly in our diets.

My father (British) lost his father early on through heart related problems. He married a Spanish woman (my mother) and switched to using olive oil as the main cooking fat at a time when olive oil could only be bought in England in tiny 4 oz bottles from the Chemist/Pharmacist. It turns out he inherited the same health problems that killed his father but was told that his diet is excellent and how fortunate he’s been to have adopted it so early on in his life. If he’d stuck with his cultural food heritage it’s extremely likely that he’d be dead.

Both he and my mother rarely use ovens or a deep fat fryer and never use microwaves. For those trying to cut down on their bad fat intake, these seem to be a decidedly unholy kitchen trinity.

But even a ‘traditional’ Japanese diet isn’t necessarily entirely good for us. The way vegetables and other foods are pickled and preserved is being changed so that there’s a trend for them to be lighter and fresher and not so heavily salted (partly why garlic and chilli is becoming more popular) as those eaten in the past, those afflicted with Edo Disease/Osaka Swelling/Beri Beri were sent to the country to be cured - fashionable white rice had all the B vitamins hulled away, away from the city farmers still ate the good brown rice. Although Japan is famous for high average longevity rates they are misleading… you have a significant chance of dying young due to ill health (Cancer/Heart Disease and problems related to high blood pressure) it’s just that people who do survive these tend to live on to a particularly old age so the median looks impressive.
There’s also the phenomenon of a generation of Japanese who won’t take any notice of foods’ expiry dates - so despite advances in refrigeration lots of food has far too many preservatives in them to take this generation into account.

In summary, even (perhaps especially) with Japanese food - home cooked is best. So learning how to cook it from scratch using a website such as this is probably going to net you more health advantages than cooking it in Japan using convenient ingredients that are already pre-prepared.

So the irony with advanced cultures with lots of processed food is that often people living in other countries going back to their ‘culinary roots’ are eating better and more healthily than many of those who never left.

Loretta | 21 January, 2008 - 20:34

I definitely agree with

I definitely agree with Emmy, Alexsandra and Loretta that Mediterranean and/or Asian cuisines are the healthiest in the world. And in my opinion they’re also the tastiest!

Trudy | 21 January, 2008 - 23:18

food for thought

I think Pat made a really good point. Cultural diets are not just about the type of food, but also the lifestyle our ancestors lived. Many of the countries mentioned with rich, heavy diets are also colder climates where the extra energy was probably necessary.

Also, while there are stereotypical diets, it’s not necessarily what people normally eat. When i think of a Polish diet, i think of heavy food…meat, potatoes, pirogies, etc. I spent 2 months in Poland with her family, and most meals were very light and consisted of bread, cheese, veggies and fruit (plus we walked everywhere!)

A friend’s daughter is half American Indian and more prone to weight gain than her Swedish relatives. Her mom strongly believes that her daughter should eat more of the traditional native diet (more protein, almost no refined flours) because her body can’t handle the carbohydrates.

I’m half-Japanese and my mom’s parents live here in the states. Despite their ridiculously healthy lifestyle (they go to the gym 5-6 days/week) and thin build, both have diabetes. I assumed it just ran in our family, but when i asked, my grandma told me that none of her relatives (all are in Japan) have diabetes “because they don’t eat American food”. This surprised me because my grandparents still eat mostly Japanese food, and only eat out maybe once a week.

I guess the point of all these examples is that to me, there is something to the importance of a person’s food heritage, but people need to no only look at the food, but the entire culture.

great job with the blog, maki!

eriko | 22 January, 2008 - 00:57

cuisines

Russian cuisine, at least this cultural mess we usually sell as “Russian”, is very heavy on meat, mayonnaise (thick and oily, it’s the sauce #1 here) and low-grade macaroni — completely unhealthy if you ask me. I’m underweight all my life so I never had any obesity problems to start with but then I tend to eat light food, vegetables — Japanese and Mediterranean dishes are very good on my stomach and my health while you usually have to take digestive enzymes as a medication to eat several courses of Russian dishes. Those enzymes are even advertised on national TV — you could imagine exactly how healthy our cuisine is.

So I guess in my point of view it boils down to who we are and what we eat. Sure, you’ll be obese if you’re genetically predisposed to that, but if you eat healthy food your chances to live a balanced live are much higher.

Cheers from Moscow, Russia.

Anton | 22 January, 2008 - 17:38

Eat your Heritage

To chime in:

-I’m a white, Midwestern American with German-Irish-British (aka “Western European Mutt”) heritage.
-The food of My People is gloppy, white, and based on a combo of meats, starches, and dairy products.
-It’s pretty comforting.
-It’s pretty constipating.
-I couldn’t afford to eat like this every day.
-I wouldn’t want to.

Conversely:
-I ate a sit-down dinner with my family almost every day growing up. Mom cooked, Dad cleaned. We ate slowly and yakked about our days.
-If I did this today, I would feel more well fed, emotionally and psychologically.

Ariel | 22 January, 2008 - 20:04

Is it the content of the food, not the native country?

I’m an American of mixed European descent, with ancestors arriving here over hundreds of years. As kids, we grew up during WWII — and ate what our parents could purchase with rationing, etc. We ran and played outside and did a lot of walking, bicycle riding, and sports. I was slim and strong well into college in spite of a meat-and-potatoes diet.

As a cook, I’ve tried all kinds of recipes as my interest in other cuisines grew. And the weight came on when I became less active physically, no matter what I was cooking at the time. Interestingly, the weight dropped off a few years ago when my husband and I tried a low-carbo diet. When we stopped, the weight came back again.

It seems to me it’s what your food is, not where it originated. I cut way back on potatoes — but eat rice instead. Not eating either would be better for me. Lots of stir-fries are what I make now, using olive oil and fresh vegetables and some meat. Bread and other carbos are still my downfall.

I love the websites (both) and have switched to miso soup for lunch, thanks to you.

anon. | 22 January, 2008 - 22:44

Alaskan Native with some extra helpings from Europe

Interesting conversation… I think that going back to your hereditary culinary roots is an interesting exercise, but also has its own problems. For one thing, it becomes a real challenge to figure out where one can stop with the genealogy and what bits to focus on. My father is part Alaskan Native and various European bits, and my Mother has a little Cherokee but mostly other European bits… Unfortunately the Alaskan Native culinary tradition has been pretty much lost in our family. (My Grandmother was sent to boarding school as a young girl and then marryied and settling in Eastern Washington to get her recipes out of books like Fannie Farmer.) As for Europe- I could pretty much find relatives in just about every country. I am always interested in researching new cuisines, but the whole gluten-free with vegetarian preferences makes things difficult.

Personally I think healthful eating for one’s body depends not only on things like fat and calories but also on what your body is used to. One may be able to adjust to a low-fat, higher fiber and fresh produce diet easier than, say, a transition to heavy, deep fried meals. I found this out quickly on a recent trip to Austria where gluten-free food made me ill due to the quantities of oil and other suspect ingredients. I was raised on brown rice, and whenever my body feels out of whack I find returning to my childhood diet (unrelated though it is to my heritage) can be an equalizer- for me, it is the best diet. I was also slimmer in Japan, but I think the increased exercise and having a teeny tiny fridge and kitchen had something to do with that. ;)

-Sea

Seamaiden | 24 January, 2008 - 12:10

Mestiza and proud of it! :)

What an interesting conversation. I guess I’ll add my story in, too. My mom is Filipina American and my dad is Mexican American and Anglo. So, my culinary heritage is all mixed up for the most part. Interestingly enough, many Filipino and Mexican foods are similar because of their shared colonization by Spain. So, there are menudos, tamales, rellenos, adobos, etc. to enjoy on both sides of the family, only different ingredients are used!

Also, both Filipinos and Mexicans are big on socializing and showing love with food. As you can imagine, I never went hungry as a child!

As far as going back to my “roots,” I’ve always loved my family’s cooking. The only problem is that I’m now a pescatarian and don’t eat meat besides fish. Of course, meat is a huge part of both Filipino and Mexican cooking! So, I make mostly vegetarian versions of my family’s cuisine— eggplant adobo and shrimp-only pancit, as well as chickenless posole and enchiladas.

While I had a weight problem in high school due to medication, for the most part, my diet has always been influenced by healthy versions of my cultural cuisine, or rare indulgences at family parties.

For me, the two important things to take into account when it comes to eating my cultural cuisine is separating the everyday foods from party foods, and the difference in physical activity from one culture to another. What is served at a Filipino party is not something that one will eat everyday or even once a month. Also, all of my grandparents grew up on farms and did manual labor during most of their lives, so they were able to eat more calorie-dense foods than I should, as I work in an office environment. So, I regularly say “yes” to fish and rice, or beans and corn tortillas, and “sometimes” to tamales and lumpia.

Lorena | 25 January, 2008 - 19:45

I think people are being too

I think people are being too hard on Northern European diets. I’m about 1/4 Scottish and when I had stomach problems, I was surprised that the foods I do best on are Scottish. Back with my ancestors lived there they did not fry food very much and couldn’t afford the rich foods many modern Scots get fat on. The site I link, Scottish Food in Season is very surprising…how can you demean carrots, squash, seaweed, and salmon?

Either way, maybe it’s just luck that those are the foods that are best for me. I’ve found that healthy food from all cultures has a lot in common in that it’s unprocessed and heavy on the vegetables. In two words: peasant food. I’ve done well on traditional Japanese food, as long as it’s not the rich stuff.

I enjoy all cuisines, just sparingly. I think native diets are very important and can be life saving for people who are very recent to the Western diet and struggled with its effects, such as Native Americans.

Melissa | 26 January, 2008 - 20:00

As a foreign exchange

As a foreign exchange student in Japan, I lost 10-20 lbs in 7 weeks. Returning to my culinary heritage on my return to the U.S. involved gaining that and more back. :(

elaine | 28 January, 2008 - 04:38

Chinese, born in Hong Kong -

Chinese, born in Hong Kong - but raised in North America.
I went back for 3 months and ended up going to banquets and formal dinners about once a week (that started at 8-9 PM, and involved about 20 dishes or more) and ate at least 2/3 of my meals out… … …
Most things were traditional, but with variations - and definitely not low-fat (most of the time).

Ended up losing close to 15 pounds. =)
(Which I gained back in Canada within six months…)

anon. | 8 March, 2008 - 06:24

Like others, I lost weight

Like others, I lost weight on my trip to Japan! And we feasted at every meal, three times a day, and the beer and sake flowed freely from noon on. Of course, in between the meals we were literally running, either to catch a train or subway, or to go visit relatives, or of course the marathon sightseeing everyone insisted we do. Not to mention having to get up and down off the floor a billion times a day!

Then I get back to the US where my lifestyle consists of getting in my car to drive an hour to work, sitting at my desk until lunch, walking to the next cubicle for my BENTO lunch with a friend, sitting again until dinner, driving home to fix JAPANESE dinners in my efficient kitchen where I can pivot from the dishwasher to fridge to oven with hardly a step, and then plop in front of the tv or computer until bedtime. And then wonder why I struggle with my weight. Ugh, I think I’ll go take a walk :).

anon. | 10 March, 2008 - 05:14

I don’t know why but

I don’t know why but somehow, western (particularly american) dishes doesn’t appeal much to me. Well, i do like western food but they tend to stick to my waistline so i eat Chinese and Indonesian food more often… I also realize that whenever my mood is up to western cooking, i put on some weight. But i exercised and returned to chinese cooking (minus the pork belly for sure! I like the fat but that’s a big no-no for diet ) and my weight returned to normal… I don’t have problems with my waistline whenever my mood changes from chinese cooking to japanese or korean or Indonesian or Vietnamese… Is it perhaps because Asian dishes are lighter? Well i think it is :D it has lots of veggies and deep fried morsels rarely appear on our family’s menu..

Mei Ying | 3 April, 2008 - 18:27

Being fed physically, emotionally and spiritually is vital!

I think the cuisine’s origin doesn’t matter, as long as the food inspires kinship, fills nutritional needs, pleases the palate, and stimulates an appreciation for the food itself.

Food keeps us alive in ways beyond filling our bellies.

I’m a Black woman in the United States. I grew up eating lots of pork, fried foods, starches, and boiled vegetables. My parents are Southern and our table reflected this, but with a handy difference: Mom’s a nutritionist and a great cook.

My brother and I grew up healthy and slim, as long as we ate balanced home-cooked meals and didn’t overeat out of boredom. This happens a lot in our family.

Cam | 5 April, 2008 - 20:40

Hmmm...

…I think it’s true about eating healthier/losing weight if you go back to your culinary roots (excluding countries with fatty foods, no offense!). I live with my parents (I’m still a teenager), so my mom used to do the cooking. My mom is Colombian, and my dad is Chinese, born in Hong Kong. So all my mom knew what to make was either Colombian or ‘American’ dishes (not too well either, because she never learned how to cook from her mother, because her family had servants), that included a fair amount of fat and oil. Now I’ve been getting more into cooking, so I started cooking more often (because I love to cook), and now I’m cooking everyday for her for 1 year already! haha. I cook almost everyday Asian food (mostly chinese and japanese, but sometimes Korean or Vietnamese), and my whole family has been naturally slimming down, because I make smaller amounts of (usually lean) meat (about 1/2lb for 4 people), more vegetables, and more steamed rice. I rarely deep-fry, and even with fattier cuts of meat, we still have been eating much healthier.

Steph | 6 April, 2008 - 22:09

My professor said it best

About a year ago, my course schedule included a Cellular Biology class. My professor, Dr. Jack Gartner was particularly memorable. He was sharp, entertaining, and he always had a simple, logical way of explaining concepts which off-handedly seemed dauntingly complex. As it was Cellular Biology, the process of using food molecules to produce energy inevitably was covered, and along with it, raised hands began carrying the rather off-topic questions of dieting.

Dr. Gartner replied simply, “Diets are unreliable ways to lose weight. Most of the companies that promote them are more interested in making money than reducing obesity in America. If you want to lose weight, burn more calories than you store. Eat less, or excersize, or do some combination. That is how you lose weight.”

I don’t think the ethnicity of food has anything to do with weight loss. It more likely has to do with the chemical composition of the food and how that food is processed in your body. There may be genetic, chemical differences between different races that affect metabolisms, but for the most part I think your original post on this matter covered the most significant factors: portions, excersize, and societal psychology.

ginakuma | 4 May, 2008 - 05:05

Interesting...

This is a rather interesting discussion, especially since my mother is a dietitian and so places a heavy emphasis in my family on eating healthily, above all else.

I’m technically Czech/Swiss/German, but we really don’t eat any “traditional” food in my family. (Except for kolache, but that’s a different matter.) My grandparents had good friends in Japan and so had several Japanese exchange students live with them while my mom was growing up, so she tends to cook rice and fish dishes a lot. Only recently did I realize that a lot of what she cooks is based off of Japanese dishes.

Also, since my great-grandmother lived in Saudi Arabia for a long time, we also eat a lot of middle eastern food. Pita and hummus and olives and feta are all staples at my house, though what we have of that tends to be premade, rather than stuff my mom cooks.

Of course, because of my dad, we eat a lot of normal American food as well, but for me Asian and Middle Eastern food are my “comfort” foods because they’re what I grew up with.

I probably could go back to my roots and eat lots of breads and grains and soups and dairy, since that’s most likely what my ancestors ate, but that stuff doesn’t really make me feel healthy. What does make me feel healthy is going home and having miso and rice.

So really, what I think is that it’s not so much going back to your heritage so much as finding food that your body processes well. There may be something to the idea that your body is programmed to eat certain foods because that’s what your ancestors ate, but it also depends on what you’ve eaten for most of your life. Of course, that could just be me because my mom tends to cook very healthily, but either way, it’s interesting.

Mara | 4 May, 2008 - 07:43

I like homecooking the best.

I like homecooking the best. I’m now studying in Australia, but whenever I’m homesick I usually go for rice with steamed fish, sliced ginger and tsuyu

I think how important food heritage is to you depends on how traditionally brought up you were. My parents were very strict, and we’re the first generation (to be born in Singapore, after they immigrated). Even within the university, the people who tend to cook are those who are brought up more traditionally and those who got a more open education. Sometimes I wish they weren’t so strict, but I’m glad to be able to cook now!

tsu | 17 December, 2008 - 19:01

Re: Going back to your culinary roots: does it make you ...

I'd love for that to be true... my major ethnic background is Ukrainian, so wouldn't it be wonderful to eat as much of it as I wanted and just melt away the fat? Hahaha...

Mind you, I spent three weeks in Europe recently. I ate everything, drank everything... especially things that are bad for me... ate about 2 or 3 times more calories I would consume here.. and still managed to lose weight! It came back within the first week of being home, which is sad. I'm not sure what it was, exactly, because even though I did a lot of walking, I didn't really get any sleep and half my days were spent on a bus. Back home I have a waitress job, so I walk fairly quickly for hours at a time..

Alex | 23 July, 2010 - 07:42

Indonesia-Australia-Indonesia-Japan-Indonesia

I'm an Indonesian with Chinese ancestry. I grew up eating food from both countries, but mostly Indonesian. I never had a problem with my weight & body fat before, I even found it quite hard to gain weight. That is until I spent 3+ years in Australia for Senior High School. I came back to in Indonesia with 5 cm more in height & about 6.5 Kg more in weight. I become fatter and much easier to gain weight. Then I spent about 2 weeks in Indonesia and I lost 0.5 to 1 Kg. After that, I had a trip to Japan for about 2 weeks. During my time there, I had more walking than I usually do in Indonesia. I also had seafood for almost everyday, from breakfast to dinner when I were there, because I went to Hokkaido. After I come back to Indonesia, I check my weight and I actually lost 1 Kg.

My whole weight lost might be due to the fact that I eat less cheese, meat, butter, milk, sugar & processed food and more vegetables & home-made food in Indonesia compared to when I were still living in Australia. Also, I ate mostly seafood (although with rice) and walk more during my days in Japan.

In conclusion, I think eating more vegetable & seafood, less dairy & sugar and move (walk, cycling, etc) more can help people lose weight and be more healthier.

P.S.: I've been trying 4 kind of diet this year. First is vegan diet, second is a commercial '6-days' diet, third is the salt diet (no salt, no carbs, small portion of meat, etc.) and the last one which I'm still doing is a diet from a nutritionist (suppose to be for my mum, the nutritionist check her blood, weight, fat & water percentage, etc., but I'm joining her in this diet). Seems to me that the last one is the best. In there, there are very little carbs, small portion of fruit & vegetable, mostly full with egg whites & seafood.

Fredella | 24 November, 2010 - 23:00

Re: Going back to your culinary roots: does it make you ...

I know this is old but I thought this was a very interesting topic and maybe I could add to it.

I was born in Canada but I am (mostly) half Hungarian and half French Canadian. I grew up being closer to my mother's Hungarian side, since my parents are not together since I was very little.

So most of the stuff I ate was based on Hungarian foods. There was also plain mash, veg and meat but I remember my mom's Hungarian food the most. It's not what I'd call super unhealthy, but it's heavy in sauce, meat and fortunately for me my mom did not fill it with lard and fats as it's supposed to be.

When I was a teen, I wasn't obese or much overweight but I was self conscious of it because other girls were so much more petite looking. I decided to cut down on all those things that make Hungarian cooking and upped the veg, rice and let go of meat (most of the time, have a weakness for fish). Ate stir-frys most of the time. That was the first time my weight shifted at all, I had more energy and was able to lose even more weight by excercise.

I moved to the UK, after meeting my now husband, stuffed myself with new found food and gained all the weight back plus some more. I overindulged in curries, fish and chips, kebab and after eating so much meat and bad stuff I feel horrible now. I'm trying to go back to my previous healthy habbits, with difficulty.

So I personally doubt the claims of origin food, or at least it's disproven to me personally. If your Country has a diet based around fish, veg and rice, then yes returning to it is good but if it's loads of meat, fat and sauce, good luck!

illy | 31 May, 2013 - 13:40

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <br>
  • Each email address will be obfuscated in a human readble fashion or (if JavaScript is enabled) replaced with a spamproof clickable link.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Related sites

Share food, change lives
Play Freerice and feed the hungry

Hello!

Just Hungry is a site about Japanese food and home cooking, healthy eating, the expat food life, and more. [log in] or [register]

About this site

maki Just Hungry is a site about food. There are lots of recipes and much more. You may want to read about Just Hungry, or contact the site owner, Makiko Itoh. To dive in real deep, try the site map.

This article is from justhungry.com.