5 Components of a Healthy Diet in Japan

Blog Lifestyle 5 Components of a Healthy Diet in Japan

11.19.2019 0 comments

Japan is known for being one of the healthiest countries in the world. In fact, it has the highest longevity rate on Earth, with more people living beyond 100 years old than any other country.

Diet definitely plays a role in their long lives and good health. In fact, one study [1] found that the Japanese dietary guidelines led to a lower total mortality risk, as well as lower cardiovascular mortality rates. In some cases, there was even lower cancer mortality thanks to the Japanese diet guidelines.

So what is it about the Japanese diet that makes it so healthy?

Focus on Fish

The average Japanese eats a LOT of fish. Japanese is an island—and a fairly small one—so there’s not a lot of pasture space for cattle. However, the ocean provides quite the bounty of fish, which the Japanese eat both raw and cooked.

Fish has high Omega-3 fatty acid content. This makes it not only vital for your heart, but also for your brain, your digestive system, and your internal organs.

Pickled and Fermented Foods

Miso and natto (fermented soy beans) are just two of the fermented foods popular in Japan. Pickles—like pickled radish (daikon), eggplant, plums, and cabbage are also popular as garnishes for various dishes. In fact, one of the most popular Japanese sweet treats is the pickled plums known as umeboshi.

Non-fermented pickles tend to contain a lot of vinegar, pickling spices, and herbs, all of which offer a broad range of health benefits. Fermented foods like miso soup and natto are amazing for your gut health, as they encourage the development of healthy gut flora that can help to improve digestion, enhance brain function, and so much more. One study [2] even found that miso soup can help to increase the production of important vitamins (like Vitamin B12 and Vitamin K) in your body.

Reduced Sugar Intake

Unlike the average American diet, Japanese don’t consume a great deal of sugar in their daily meals. For example, while Americans like to start the day with a sweet cup of coffee, Japanese will often have tea with their breakfast.

Westerners love their sodas, lemonades, and sweet teas, but Japanese will often drink teas that are unsweetened. For example, there is a simple unsweetened barley tea served with many meals, used as a palate cleanser between dishes. Or in place of a cold glass of juice, they will drink ice-cold mugicha (another type of barley tea) that is unsweetened.

While the Japanese love sweets—ice cream, sweetened yoghurt, candied apples, and more—the amount of sugar they consume in their diets is far lower than the average Westerner.

Seaweed

Seaweed is one of those amazingly healthy foods that definitely deserve a place in the Western diet, but is found aplenty in the Japanese diet.

Seaweed is loaded with nutrients: copper, calcium, iron, iodine, protein, fiber, folic acid, Vitamin K, and the list goes on. It’s also incredibly low in calories and contains virtually no fat. However, it contains very high quantities of important antioxidants and phytochemicals.

It’s these potent compounds that make seaweed such a valuable and healthy food. Okinawans are the longest-living people in the world, and seaweed is a critical part of their diet [3]. The molecule fucoidans in seaweed is believed to offer a wide of cardioprotective benefits (including reduced blood pressure and enhanced cardiovascular health), as well as boost immunity and improve life expectancy overall.

Green Tea

Green tea is, without a doubt, one of the healthiest beverages on the planet!Experts across the globe can agree that green tea is amazing, thanks to its many health benefits, including [4]:

  • Improved blood flow

  • Lower cholesterol levels

  • Reduced blood pressure

  • Reduced risk of congestive heart failure

  • Enhanced brain function, specifically in the working-memory areas of the brain

  • Blocked formation of plaques that can lead to Alzheimer’s

  • Improved blood sugar control

  • Reduced risk of diabetes

  • Fat-targeting thanks to the mechanisms of the EGCG antioxidant

  • Improved cellular growth

  • Potentially lower risk of cancer

  • Boost of energy without the nervous system-stimulating effects of coffee

  • A calming effect, thanks to the theanine in the tea

Japanese will drink almost as much green tea every day as the average Westerner drinks coffee, which can offer a lot of those amazing health benefits listed above.

Matcha green tea takes things one step farther by adding in the ground-up green tea leaves. The higher antioxidant and fiber content of matcha green tea doubles down on the benefits that make green tea such a valuable addition to your diet!

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Resources:

[1] https://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i1209

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24251697

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11710355

[4]https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-benefits-of-green-tea

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