#307 A Slimming Diet

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"Put off for one day and ten days will pass."

Korean Proverb

Why Korean Women Don't Get Fat

By Cecilia H. Lee

Korean FamilyI would be lying if I said that there were no fat people in Korea. But being overweight in Korea is unusual and obesity is virtually unknown. You may ask, "What's the secret?" I like to think it's good genes, but the real secret is the traditional Korean diet.

Traditional Korean cuisine has always been based on the natural environment. Being a peninsula, the country is surrounded on three sides by oceans, almost 70 percent of the land is mountainous, and various rivers flow down from the mountains' slopes. So, as you can figure, there is no shortage of seafood available; and several fish, mollusks, and sea creatures make their way to the dinner table. From the mountains, various wild and cultivated vegetables and fruits are available.

Korean MealAccording to Korean nutritionists (albeit a bit on the biased side), the Korean diet is well-balanced in nutrition, weight control, and cholesterol intake. But traditional cuisine was not developed with just nutrition in mind; Koreans have always considered the idea of balance, a sense of well-being, and a spiritual peace as accompaniments to their meals.

According to The Cambridge World History of Food, the traditional Korean diet is composed of 70 percent carbohydrates (mostly in the form of rice and vegetables, which are present at most meals), about 14 to 17 percent protein, and 13 percent fat. When compared to the traditional European diet, you can see a stark difference—the European diet is typically composed of 40 percent carbohydrates, 15 to 20 percent protein, 30 to 40 percent fat, and 10 to 15 percent sugar.

Let me break down how a Korean meal is put together. In general, a traditional meal is made up of a staple, usually short-grain rice but sometimes noodles. Each person gets his or her own bowl of rice and a bowl of simple soup on the side. The soup is sometimes made from boiled beef bones, fat skimmed of course, or seaweed, or even soybean sprouts. Accompanying the rice are various side dishes, called banchan. If there is a special guest or a celebration, there may also be a main dish, usually beef, pork, chicken, or seafood.

Korean Meal

It's ironic that most people think of barbecue when the subject of Korean cuisine comes up, because meat is not a major part of the Korean diet. The famous marinated rib-eye dish, galbi, is actually a recipe that was created in restaurants in the 1950s.

RiceAlong with the main banchan, there are always various smaller side dishes that accompany the meal. Those are usually not meat, but there will always be at least one kimchi. Kimchi are any number of pickled vegetables, unique to Korean cuisine. The most popular of these is the traditional Napa cabbage variety, made with garlic, chili powder, and sometimes salted seafood. The fermentation process brings out all the lovely good bacteria that aid in digestion (like lactic acid and those bacteria found in yogurt). Kimchi is said to be high in vitamins A and C as well as good minerals, like calcium and iron. The lactic acid in the kimchi is helpful for intestinal health and in preventing diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cancers of the gastrointestinal area.

Now, if that's not good enough, the rest of the meal is rounded out by myriad little seafood and seasonal vegetables. Korean cooking has historically been linked to the four seasons of the year and the different regions found in the country. Since fruits and vegetables that are in season have the best taste and the highest nutritional value, this method of cooking makes for optimal enjoyment and health.

PizzaThe sad news about the Korean diet is that with the wide availability of hamburgers, pizzas, and other American fast foods, Koreans are now beginning to see the health detriments that come with such a high-fat, highly processed diet. Of course, diet isn't everything, but you can see how the introduction of Western cuisine into Korean culture has led to ill effects.

Although following a strict Korean diet will be difficult for even Korean Americans like me, introducing Korean food into your staple of foods is not only a wonderful way to eat healthily but also a way to add new and exciting flavors to your palate.

I leave you with a happy note and an easy noodle recipe you can try. Happy eating!

Vegetable Mixed Noodles (Yachae Gooksu) (Makes 4 Servings.)

About 1 lb. dried somen (4 bundles)
Vegetable oil (I like canola.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, coarsely shredded
3 small zucchini, thinly sliced crosswise
3 green onions, coarsely chopped
2 Persian or Kirby cucumbers, coarsely shredded
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Black pepper (optional)

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Asian sesame oil
1-1/2 Tbsp. sugar

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the somen until al dente, about 4 minutes. Rinse under cold water. Drain well and divide the noodles into 4 large bowls.

In a large skillet, heat about 1 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil. Add the garlic and carrots and cook over high heat for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until just slightly browned. Turn off the heat, add the green onions, and toss.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce with the sesame oil and sugar, and stir until the sugar, is dissolved.

Pile the vegetable mixture on the noodles and drizzle the soy mixture on top. Top with the cucumbers, and garnish with sesame seeds and black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

Variations: If you're feeling more adventurous, feel free to experiment with other vegetables. Various mushrooms, onions, peppers, and sprouts work well.

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Cecilia H. LeeIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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More Tips for Eating on the Cheap

By Denis Faye

We got such a tremendous response to "9 Ways to Eat Healthily (and Cheaply)" a couple of weeks ago that we thought we'd run a few more tips on eating on the cheap!

Buying in Bulk

  1. Buy in bulk. As with most things, food is cheaper when you buy more of it. The problem is that while apples, onions, or baby carrots will last for some time when bought in small amounts, that pallet of strawberries or that 12-pack of chicken breasts doesn't have much of a shelf life. Fortunately, recent innovations in kitchen technology have produced an appliance called a "freezer"—and it works great. Give it a try! Make sure not to get tricked into eating in bulk when you buy in bulk. A good system to follow is to take out your single serving and freeze or store the rest right away before you get tempted.

  2. Brown bag it. Try making your own lunch. Most of us grab a premade, quick bite at least five times a week, but even the cheapest Subway sandwich costs twice what it would cost to make yourself. And if you take it another step, you can pack last night's leftovers and take them with you—it's practically like getting a free lunch! The best part of all is that you get to pick exactly what goes in your meal. You can know that you're eating healthily.

  3. No Junk FoodJunk the junk food. If that pound of salmon costs three dollars more than you'd like to spend, take the potato chips out of your cart. There. You just saved enough to eat a healthy protein source. Most of the junk food people buy isn't really food to begin with. It's only filled with empty, nutritionally void calories. It's like the Weekly World News of the food world—fine every now and then, but the only people who benefit from you eating chips or Ding Dongs every day are the fat cats on Wall Street who own stock in Frito-Lay. If your cart seems a little empty without the junk, that's okay. If you have a weight problem, you were probably eating too much anyway.

  4. Go around the world around the block. Those little mom-and-pop ethnic markets are great ways to save some major dollars over what you'd spend at the supermarket. A bunch of cilantro can cost $0.99 at the supermarket but only $0.19 at the Hispanic grocery store. Chanterelle mushrooms are $50 a pound at the supermarket and $15 a pound at the local Russian market. By browsing your local ethnic specialty stores, you'll get some great cooking ideas and save a few bucks or rubles or pesos.

  5. MeatBuy lean meat. Let's finish things off with a quick tip on meat. It may be tempting to buy fattier meat because it's cheaper but, in truth, this price savings is all smoke and mirrors. When you cook fatty meat, the fat tends to melt off, leaving you with less food. Economically, lean meat is the same as fatty meat—but it's healthier.

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Denis FayeIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Korean Food IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

Ordering Korean food in a restaurant can be a little daunting if you don't speak the language. Here are some common terms and root words to describe popular foods. Can you match the English word with its Korean counterpart?

  1. Bap = RiceBap = Rice. Rice was introduced in Korea from China during the Bronze Age. It is the culture's staple food. Almost no Korean meal is complete without rice in some form. Although Korean rice consumption has dropped somewhat in modern times as a wider variety of food has become available, the average Korean consumes around 169 pounds of rice a year, compared to about 25 pounds a person in the U.S. (where rice consumption is on the rise).

  2. Gogi = MeatGogi/Goki = Meat. You'll often see gogi combined with other Korean words to describe meat dishes, like the popular bulgogi, a marinated and grilled beef dish. The huge economic growth has tripled the rate of meat consumption in South Korea over the last 25 years. Pork is the most popular meat, followed by beef and chicken. Perhaps not coincidentally, the incidences of heart disease and other conditions related to a more Western diet have also increased.

  3. Guk = SoupGook/Guk = Soup. Soup is a tremendously popular dish in Korea, with a long history, both to warm people from the cold and to stretch food during times of famine. Like rice, meals are rarely served without a soup dish. Stews and hot pots are also very popular.

  4. Guksu = NoodlesGooksu/Guksu = Noodles. Noodles, usually made with buckwheat or plain wheat flour, are served in soup by themselves, or mixed with meat and/or vegetables.

  5. Yachae = VegetablesYachae = Vegetables. One of the healthiest aspects of the Korean diet is the heavy consumption of vegetables, especially legumes and leafy greens. If you're lucky enough to have a Korean grocery in your neighborhood, check out the produce section; you'll find a wide variety of flavorful veggies that you might not have tried before.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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