Why Do Japanese Women Live the Longest?
I’m sure you’ve already heard about the longevity of Japanese men and women, mostly attributed to their food choices and life style. Traditionally, the Japanese diet has been praised for its health preserving benefits – and don’t restrict your view of the Japanese cuisine to sushi rolls. These days, the Japanese too are experiencing challenges the modern life brings and are adopting less health-promoting foods. Nonetheless, the old wisdom is not forgotten.
Diet based on fish, soy, rice, vegetables and fruit
A home cooked Japanese meal is the key to success. Forget about complicated restaurant meals that take a long time to master – a traditional meal in Japan usually consists of some grilled fish, a bit of steamed rice, simmered vegetables, a bowl of miso soup, and green tea (which has amazing health benefits) and fruits for dessert.
Have you noticed that the food you get in a Japanese restaurant comes in small, pleasing to the eye bowls, and it satisfies you despite the smaller portions? Presentation is important in Japan and the rule is to enjoy your food slowly. You’re encouraged to stop eating when you’re 80% full.
Steaming, pan grilling, sautéing, simmering or quick stir-frying in a wok are used to prepare the dishes. Japanese cooks choose heart-friendly oils and avoid methods that would expose ingredients to high temperatures for a long time. Also, they enjoy fresh foods and go easy on the dressing, so you are left with a light, yet fulfilled, feeling in your stomach.
No bread, just rice
Japanese diet doesn’t feature any bread. Instead, steamed rice is served with every meal, which eliminates the consumption of refined wheat flour. These days, plain rice can be easily replaced by the more healthy brown variation.
Breakfast powered with miso soup
In Japan, breakfast is considered an important and big meal and is served as a variety of small dishes. A bowl of probiotic-rich miso soup is often enjoyed with the first meal of the day to give you an extra push.
Sugary desserts are not customary in Japan. Desserts can be served, but they are smaller and not eaten as frequently as in the sugar-obsessed West.
Different attitude to food and dieting
Japanese women are raised to enjoy food and consume a wide variety of foods; they are not as concerned about dieting as their Western counterparts. Also, ‘incidental’ exercising such walking everywhere keeps the Japanese slim and being active is a part of the daily routine.
The key Foods of the Japanese Diet
Nearly 10% of the world’s fish is consumed in Japan. If you think about the abundance of omega-3 fatty acids present in oily fish, it becomes clear how the Japanese manage to stay disease-free and youthful. Omega 3 has amazing health benefits and it can also prevent breast cancer.
Vegetables (sea and land)
Full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, vegetables also make you feel fuller. Japanese are known to consume 5 times as much cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, kale, bok choy) compared to Americans. I’ve already mentioned the amazing health benefits of cruciferous vegetables. Sea vegetables such as sea weed (which is great for your health) are also an important source of nutrients and feature in many Japanese dishes.
Rice is the Japanese staple and makes you avoid sodium (salt), saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. For a healthier meal, opt for brown rice. You can also make it healthier by adding a certain oil when the water boils.
Japanese consume a lot of soy – about 50 grams per day. A lot of the Japanese traditional dishes are made of soy. Soy used to be a good food choice and was of a higher quality than it is in today’s GMO days when the use of soy is controversial.
The best way to finish a Japanese meal is to have a small cup of green tea. Rich in antioxidants, it will protect your heart and ward off other chronic diseases. Particularly praised is the Matcha green tea.
The intake of processed foods high in trans fats is further reduced by serving fresh fruit instead of biscuits, cakes and muffins. Decoratively sliced, fruits make for a great dessert option. If you are concerned about pesticides, opt for organic fruits.