The China Studyis a book about the China-Cornell-Oxford Project, a 20-year study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine, Cornell University, and the University of Oxford. Considered “the Grand Prix of epidemiology” by the New York Times, this study looked at the mortality rates for over 50 diseases by following individuals in 65 counties across China in the 1970s. The counties chosen were places where people have lived and eaten in a similar manner for generations. The researchers obtained diet histories and food samples, as well as blood and urine samples from 50 adults in each of the 130 villages visited. Once the data was collected and analyzed—a process that took years—many significant associations were noted. The most striking of these, was that disease mortality rates were positively associated with animal protein intake, but were inversely associated with plant protein intake. In other words, eating animal protein was associated with more death and disease, while eating plant protein was associated with less. The researchers also found that “there was no evidence of a threshold beyond which further benefits did not accrue with increasing proportions of plant-based foods in the diet.” (1) So the more plants people ate, the healthier they tended to be—something the overall data on human health and nutrition strongly suggests.
Although diet varied from county to county, some foods were featured more often than others, especially among the healthier counties. Can you guess which foods were commonly consumed on a healthy, traditional, rural Chinese diet? If you guessed rice, vegetables, and soy, you’d be correct! Much like other healthy populations across the globe, these rural Chinese communities were poor agricultural communities. They ate what they, or their neighbor, grew. Meat was a luxury item only consumed on special occasions. Dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt were almost non-existent, as most Asian populations are lactose-intolerant. So they ate plants, and were better off because of it.
This recipe incorporates these three common ingredients—rice, vegetables, and soy—for a healthier, non-fried version of vegetable fried rice. And although it does contain a little sesame oil, which is more for flavor than for function, it’s a fairly insignificant amount once divided out per portion.
- Brown rice is a good source of fiber, various B-vitamins, and has been shown to lower inflammation. It’s also a great gluten-free grain for those with celiac disease.
- Mushrooms contain aromatase-inhibiting properties, which helps keep estrogen levels in check, and likely explains why mushroom intake is associated with lower rates of breast cancer.
- Cabbage is part of the cruciferous vegetable family—a class of vegetables with well-established anti-cancer properties.
- Tofu is a great source of plant-based protein. The phytoestrogens in soy help protect against breast cancer and appear to lower rates of recurrence and mortality in women who already carry a diagnosis.
- Turmeric, ginger, garlic, and onions are all potent anti-cancer foods that can also help lower inflammation and support our immune system.
- 3 cups of dry short-grain brown rice
- 20 oz extra firm tofu (I buy two-10oz packages)
- 1 tbsp powdered turmeric
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (gluten-free, if needed)
- 2 cups of carrots, diced into pea-sized cubes
- 1.5 cups of chopped red or green cabbage
- Half of a medium yellow onion, diced
- ⅓ cup of minced red bell pepper
- 1 cup of sliced mushrooms, stems removed (white button, cremini, or shitake work well)
- 1.5 cups of frozen green peas
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-15oz can of baby corn, rinsed, drained, and chopped into dice-sized chunks
- 1 bunch of green onions, minced (use mostly the green part)
- ¼ cup of low-sodium soy sauce (gluten-free, if needed)
- 1 tbsp of chili sauce
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp rice wine
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- Cook the brown rice however you’d like.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Drain and press tofu (If you haven’t done this before, you can look up different methods. I simply wrap the tofu blocks in paper towels and gently press down until most the liquid is gone).
- Crumble the tofu into a medium mixing bowl. Aim for chunks of tofu the size of a playing die.
- Add the seasoning and toss until the tofu is well coated.
- Evenly spread the pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for ~30 minutes, or until the tofu begins to brown a little.
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
- In a large skillet or wok, add a tablespoon of sesame oil and a tablespoon of soy sauce. Heat over medium/high heat until it starts to sizzle.
- Add the carrots and toss. Cook for a minute.
- Add the cabbage, yellow onion, red pepper, and mushrooms. Cook for five minutes, stirring and tossing frequently.
- Add the green peas, garlic, baby corn, and pre-mixed sauce. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until all the veggies are slightly tender. Stir frequently and DO NOT overcook the vegetables. You want them to have a nice crunch.
- Once the veggies are slightly tender, but still crunchy, remove from heat and add the green onions.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked rice, the sautéed vegetables, and the baked tofu egg. Drizzle with a little more toasted sesame oil and soy sauce, then stir well.
- Add additional soy sauce or chili sauce as needed.