You don’t have to be a seasoned foodie to have heard that the phrase, “Eat until you’re 80% full” originated from the Japanese remote island of Okinawa. But if you delve deeper you will realize that Japanese dietary habits are more than just exercising moderation when around food. And while a majority of us only think of Sushi whenever the word “Japanese Cuisine” is dropped at our feet, it turns out that the Far East way of doing things goes beyond oily fish and fermented vegetables.
If anything, the Japanese food culture is a little more sophisticated, more detailed and, of course, more health-oriented than that of most parts of the Western Hemisphere. This is evident from the fact that the life expectancy is Japan is ten years higher than in the US. Japan has the highest number of centenarians ( people over 100 years old ) in the globe. But that’s not all. Japan has the least obesity rate among all industrialized countries. Japanese are reportedly healthier than their western counterparts in terms of physical lifestyle disabilities and age-related illnesses.
But what makes the Japanese diet stand out from the rest of other oriental cuisines?
For starters, unlike in the Western World, where we view food as a means to the end (something you expect to have at the end of the day), the Japanese integrate food into their daily routine. They actually view food as a part and parcel of their lives and not just a consequence of living.
In a bid to control how they gobble down, the Japanese prefer to serve their dishes on small separate plates/bowls as opposed to one big plate. This way, diners can put a limit on their helpings and at the same time savour a little of everything on the table without actually overeating. Now you know why they say that Japanese women rarely become old and fat.
Steer clear of processed foods.
A recent research shows that over 98% of Americans can hardly go a day or two without consuming exorbitant amounts of processed foods, with McDonald’s Hamburgers sitting at the top of the list. The consequences are obvious. The obesity rates in the United States and the UK are among the highest in the world while lifestyle diseases kill more people in the Western World than malnutrition does in Third World countries.
On the hand, the traditional Japanese diet revolves around home-cooked meals, encompassing various unprocessed courses including; simmered vegetables, green tea, fresh fruit and a sizable bowl of miso soup. And in case you didn’t know, the Japanese consume twice as much fish per day as the average American does in a week.
Further, while almost every other meal in served in the average American household has to accompanied by beef and processed dairy, most meals in Japan are served with rice and complemented by seaweed and a sizable helping of vegetables.
In a study, in mice that were fed a Japanese, the genes that are responsible for fat and cholesterol break down were 150% more active than in mice that ate an American diet. In particular, research in mice has found that of all Japanese diets, the traditional (that of 1975) rather than the modern Japanese diet is the most effective in delaying senescence, extending life expectancy, and maintaining learning and memory capacity.
The goodness of soy.
Instead of over-relying on red meat for all their protein needs, the Japanese have shifted allegiance to a healthier alternative – soy. Couple this with the fact that natural soy – e.g. edamame beans and tofu – has very little saturated fat content, you will begin to understand why Japan has least reported cases of heart-related diseases in the world.
It’s simple. If you want to live longer, why not book a week’s vacation in Tokyo and embrace one of the world’s healthiest diets?