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What Do Japanese People Eat?

February 27, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 220

Introduction & background

Statistics show that Japanese people rank number three when it comes to life expectancy, living an average of 82.12 years, according to the CIA's World Fact book. In addition, Japan's "healthy life expectancy"; a measure of how long people can feed, dress, and take care of themselves without assistance; also tops the list at 75 years. When we witness these valuable statistics, the first question that comes to our minds is; what do Japanese people eat? One can imagine that the Japanese people must have a really healthy traditional Japanese diet which is uniquely different from that of almost every other culture in the world.

General facts about typical Japanese diet

The residents of the Japanese island of Okinawa which has more centenarians (people age one hundred or older) than anywhere else on earth; eat an average of seven servings of grains daily, in addition to seven servings of vegetables and fruits and two servings of soy products. Okinawans (residents of Okinawa) almost never eat dairy products or meat. What do Japanese people eat is not much different from the same. A traditional Japanese diet consists of rice, fish, and vegetables; foods naturally high in carbohydrates and fiber and is low in calories and fat. In fact, the Japanese people consume nearly 200 fewer calories a day than an average American. And remarkably, despite eating so much less food, their diet is more balanced than ours, with ingredients that contain just about every nutrient that our body needs. Japanese nutrition guidelines suggest that Japanese people eat an average of thirty different foods every day.

The Japanese people also get their protein primarily from fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and only rarely eat the red meat that Americans consume in such huge quantities. Also, instead of sugary beverages packed with empty calories, people of Japan drink mostly antioxidant-rich green tea. The Japanese place a premium on going to bed and waking up at prescribed times, as well as on eating meals at the same times every day; both routines that can help regulate metabolism and prevent overeating. And while their diet includes a broad range of vegetables and fruits all year round, they typically eat food only when it's in season. They also indulge in dessert far less frequently and in much smaller quantities than we do. Instead of cookies or ice cream, the Japanese generally end their meals with fresh fruit.

Let's review the major components of a traditional Japanese diet:

Cruciferous Vegetables: People of Japan build their meals around fresh vegetables, rather than using greens as a side dish or a garnish for a big meat dish. They eat cabbage and other cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, and kale at just about every meal. Cucumbers are also frequently consumed in Japan. Other popular vegetables in Japan are the ones that we would scarcely recognize, much less eat on a regular basis, including bamboo shoots, burdock, and lotus root.

Soybeans and Soy-Based Products: Packed with protein and isoflavones; which prevent everything from osteoporosis to cancer; soy is a wonderful, versatile food. Along with fish, soy (in the form of tofu, natto, and miso) provides the major source of protein in the Japanese diet. In fact, an resident of Okinawa eats up to 100 grams of soy each day, while the average American eats close to zero. You will find soy in many different forms, including boiled green soy beans which are a popular appetizer in Japanese restaurants and a great all-around snack. Products such as Edamame are low in calories (about 40 calories per handful) and high in protein and fibrer.

Soba (Buckwheat Noodles): Traditional Japanese cooks make noodles out of nourishing, easy-to-digest complex carbohydrates such as buckwheat. Despite its name, buckwheat has no relation to wheat, which makes it a safe alternative for anyone avoiding gluten (found in wheat, oats, rye, and barley). In fact, buckwheat isn't even a grain; it's a seed.

Shirataki: One of the essential components of a traditional Japanese diet, Shirataki is another fantastic alternative to traditional starchy pastas. These noodles are made out of a variety of root vegetables (most of which are native to Asia) and occasionally have tofu added for a smoother texture. They are extremely low in carbohydrates and extremely delicious too.

Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fish, the cornerstone of the Japanese diet, is a healthier source of protein than the red meat (main component of the American diet). It's low in fat, and oily fishes such as salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel (a Japanese favorite) are also rich in omega-3, which are essential for good cardiovascular health. Fish oil can also increase your mental alertness and even help combat depression. Fish is a great source of selenium and iodine as well.

Seaweed: Japan is an island, so it's only logical that the Japanese would regularly feast on seaweed and other sea vegetables. Lucky for them, seaweed is rich in iodine and other health-boosting minerals and micro-elements. It's also an excellent source of fiber. And, best of all, seaweed tastes delicious, adding a rich, savory flavor to a wide variety of foods. Try sprinkling it on salads or adding it to soups.

Mushrooms: These yummy fungi consist mostly of water and, therefore, have very few calories. They also provide a wide range of nutrients, such as potassium and selenium, which can protect cells from free radicals in the environment. Shiitake mushrooms, which are used in all sorts of Japanese dishes, have been used to fight cold and flu symptoms.

Green tea: The choice of beverage in Japan is another reason the Japanese diet tends to be much lower in sugar than ours. Rather than reaching for a supersize soda loaded with sugar and calories, the Japanese favor heart-healthy, antioxidant-rich green tea, which has been shown to fight certain cancers, ease pain, and even burn calories. Kombucha, a sweet tea made with the kombucha mushroom, is another Japanese favorite. This drink has become increasingly popular and available in the United States.

Use with herbal supplements or diet pills

Finally, as you now know what Japanese people eat, you should not forget the fact that a traditional Japanese diet alone would not work for you. Therefore, many dietitians and nutritionists recommend the regular use of certain herbal, purely vegetative or organic weight reduction tablets along with the Japanese diet. This will not only speed up the overall weight loss and dieting phenomenon but would also augment the benefits of a traditional Japanese diet.

Dr. Ikram Abidi is medical doctor, writer & researcher based in Canada and has dedicated himself fully to the fields of weight loss, fitness, diet & nutrition. With this intimate knowledge and expertise, he loves to provide online weight loss help to the people throughout their weight loss journey at

Source: EzineArticles
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