What Are the Secrets of the Healthy Japanese Diet?

Japan has the second-largest number of old people in the world. Those who reach record-breaking ages are more likely to come from Japan with only Monaco having a higher life expectancy. Surely there must be a secret that the Japanese are keeping from the rest of us if they’re living healthily and to such a great age!

Well, in reality, it is no secret; they’re just eating a hell of a lot better than most of us and the results speak for themselves. In a world where fast food, sugar and fats are favoured by so many, it's no wonder there are problems with things like obesity, heart health and blood pressure.

But over in the Far East, a healthy diet and lifestyle is clearly having an impact. Not only are people expected to live for much longer but the obesity rates in Japan are among the lowest on the globe. So, if you’re looking to improve your health and live longer (and possibly lose weight), you’ll need to get better acquainted with Japanese cuisine for a delicious and healthy diet! What are the secrets of a healthy Japanese diet?

Table of contents

What's In the Japanese Diet?

Let’s face it, Japan, like any other country in the world, has access to a whole host of convenience and fast foods. But the traditional diet is still something that a lot of people follow and it’s made up of fresh, natural ingredients.

A traditional Japanese diet consists of small dishes of fruits and vegetables, miso soup, soy sauce, rice and lots of fresh ingredients which contain barely any sugar and fat. Deep-fried foods, sugary foods and soft drinks do not feature highly in a Japanese diet making it naturally one of the healthiest ways of eating on the planet.

With such easy access to the sea, it won’t come as a surprise that a big part of Japanese cuisine includes fish and seafood. You’re probably very familiar with sashimi and sushi which are popular Japanese foods, eaten daily, that contain raw fish. But you’ll also find a lot of different meats (although not much red meat) within the diet so you’re definitely going to be getting your protein fix!

Vegetables feature massively in the Japanese diet, - at least 4 or 5 vegetables are served in one main dish in modern Japanese cuisine. A world away from boring boiled cabbage and over-cooked sprouts, Japanese staples such as soy, mirin and dashi mean that you can get maximum taste from veggies such as shiitake, daikon and seaweed and without using oil, meaning minimum harm to the waistline.

Fruit and vegetables are seasonal and sourced both from the land and in the water. A great example of this are sea vagetables such as in the various types of seaweed used in Japanese cuisine. Not only are they delicious and versatile but they’re packed with vitamins and nutrients to keep your body healthy. They are usually steamed which is a very typical method of cooking in Japan.

Tofu and edamame are staple parts of the Japanese diet and these are made from soybeans which have their own set of health benefits. You’ll also find that many of these products are often fermented which is great if you’re looking for a probiotic food to include in your daily diet.

The Japanese are said to eat over 100 different varieties of food per week, compared to just 30-45 in western cultures.

And it isn’t only Japanese food that’s an important consideration; what you drink is just as essential when it comes to the Japanese diet. For example, green tea is consumed in copious amounts which is great for cleansing the body due to its antioxidant properties.


Eat Little and Often

One of the things that a lot of us in the west are guilty of is eating massive portions and gorging ourselves. With a busy lifestyle, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of not eating all day only to stuff yourself to the brim on an evening. But this is not how your body is designed to work and can actually contribute to weight gain, especially if you live a sedentary lifestyle.

But the Japanese have got it right; think about it, how many overweight Japanese people do you see? There aren’t many and this could be because of how they space out their meals. Unlike us in the West, Japanese culture encourages eating, but the Japanese will eat less at each meal and they don’t tend to snack very often at all.

At mealtimes, food is normally served in small dishes and bowls and shared around the table, as opposed to having one huge plate each that can barely contain the meal. Adjusting your eating habits this way is a small change you can make for a much healthier lifestyle.

How Could the Japanese Diet Improve My Health?

When you think about altering your diet in any shape or form, one of the first things you’re going to ask yourself is how the new diet will benefit your health. The good news with the Japanese diet is that it comes with a whole host of health benefits. Let’s take a look at these in a little more detail.

Improved Digestive System

In the USA alone, around 62 million people are diagnosed with some sort of digestive condition every year! That’s a staggering number and no doubt down to the high intake of sugar and fat and the vast array of processed foods that people eat in the West.

These problems could be reduced when following a traditional Japanese diet. As we have already mentioned, many of the fermented foods included in this diet are probiotics which are excellent for gut health. Moreover, the sheer number of vegetables, beans and fruits means that you’ll be taking in a good amount of fibre which is also essential for a healthy digestive system.

Packed With Nutrients

One of the great things about the Japanese diet is that all of those natural foods are bursting with goodness. Depending on which foods you choose, your diet will consist of lots of different vitamins including A, C and E. Moreover, Japanese foods are high in minerals like iron, potassium, fibre and calcium.

Since many Japanese dishes include fish and seafood products, rich in omega 3 fatty acids which have a whole world of benefits and among other things, can help with the production of hormones.

Protect Your Body Against Disease

With all of the nutrients and health benefits of the Japanese diet, this goes hand in hand with the reduced chance of contracting chronic diseases. For example, many of the foods within the diet such as fish, soy and green tea may contribute to a healthier heart.

You must then consider the research that has shown that green tea can lower the risk of conditions like Alzheimer's disease and even certain types of cancer. Of course, there are no guarantees that following the Japanese diet will prevent all diseases for certain, it can go a long way in reducing the risks.

Final Thoughts

The Japanese diet has a wealth of benefits including helping you to maintain a healthy weight, possible reduction of disease risk and providing you with a greater intake of vitamins and minerals.

There really are no Japanese diet secrets. It’s simply a case of choosing healthy, natural, fresh foods and controlling the way you eat. It’s worked for centuries over in Japan so there’s no reason it can’t work for you too!

Whether you are looking for weight loss, better health or longevity, swap your creamy, sugar-laden latte for some green tea, and include far more fresh and steamed fruits and vegetables into your weekly meals, and you are bound to feel the benefits.
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