Japanese Diet

Nutrichef directors Barbara and David Cox had an amazing time living and working in Japan for 9 years. They quickly grew to love the Japanese diet for its delicious, subtle flavours and its numerous health benefits. With low levels of cancer, heart disease and obesity, it’s no coincidence that Japan continues to top the national longevity rankings:  

The United Nations recently put Japan at number one with the UK down in 20th and the USA at 36!

While living in Japan, Barbara studied nutrition and she identified the following features of the Japanese diet, many of which have been incorporated into Nutrichef’s meal plans and our Perfect Ten principles.

Variety of Vegetables
fruit and veg bucketThe Japanese eat a very wide variety of vegetables, providing a wide variety of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and disease-busting antioxidants. Some of the most powerful antioxidant vegetables on the planet are mainstays of the Japanese diet, including mouli (daikon), shiitake mushrooms, seaweed for wrapping sushi, cabbage, tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, watercress and lotus root. One of the most popular home-cooked meals is mixed vegetables simmered in seasoned broth. The Japanese only ever eat vegetables in season, meaning the nutrients within are at their peak levels. A wide variety of vegetables is a key feature of all Nutrichef meal plans.

Essentially Fatty Fish
Although accounting for only 2% of the world’s population, the Japanese eat 10% of the world’s fish. They particularly enjoy salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and fresh tuna, all of which are a great source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are very important for a healthy heart and brain, and for warding off cancer. Fish dishes are a very important component of Nutrichef meal plans.

Rice the Staple Carb
brown riceWhereas we in the west, rely on wheat products like bread and pasta as our staple carbohydrate, the Japanese eat rice instead. Rice is a low-fat complex carbohydrate, it fills you up and provides sustained energy over many hours. The problem with the reliance on wheat is that its main protein (gluten) is difficult for the human body to break down and can cause lethargy or even depression.

Buckwheat That Isn’t Wheat
Japanese people love their noodles, which they make from soba (buckwheat), which, despite the name, are not actually a kind of wheat. Buckwheat contains a biochemical called rutin, which strengthens capillary walls and helps to reduce blood pressure. Noodles can also be made from rice, although the protein content is considerably lower than it is for noodles made from buckwheat.

Full of Beans
soya beansThe Japanese love two particular varieties of bean: soy beans and adzuki beans. Soy beans are either boiled and eaten straight from their pods, known as edamame, or fermented and used to make tofu or miso soup. Soy beans are rich in calcium and soy protein, which can lower levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Soy beans also contain phytoestrogens, which act like oestrogen and help reduce the symptoms of menopause. However, it is best to eat soy products in moderation as too much phytoestrogen can cause a hormonal imbalance.

Adzuki beans are a hard dark red bean that need to be boiled or cooked in a pressure cooker. They’re a great source of a variety of nutrients, including protein and various vitamins and minerals. The fact that they are high in protein and low in fat makes them a good weight loss ingredient.

Lean Meat and Low Cholesterol
The Japanese don’t consume nearly as much red meat as we do in the west, but, when they do eat it, it’s always a lean cut of a meat such as Okinawa Pork or KobeBeef. The Japanese also consume far less milk than we do, meaning they avoid the downsides of dairy, such as its cholesterol content.

Healthy Breakfasts
Breakfast-time in the west often means a fry-up, toast and jam, a sugary croissant, a sugary cereal, or nothing at all! Yet in the land of the rising sun a typical breakfast is soup, a salad, or a rice ball (onigiri) wrapped in seaweed with a tuna filling.

Although not core to our thinking at Nutrichef, we thought you may be interested to read about three other features of the Japanese Diet:

Delicious Desserts
watermelonForget sticky cakes and puddings, a Japanese dessert – if they have one at all – is comprised of fresh fruit. The favourites are kaki (persimmon), ichigo (strawberries) and suika (watermelon). Persimmon are a bright orange fruit that provide fibre and antioxidants, as well as numerous important minerals. Strawberries are high in pectin, which helps reduce cholesterol, as well as antioxidants that help prevent the formation of tumours. Watermelon contain lycopene – the same disease-busting antioxidant found in tomatoes.

Portions and Presentation 
Japanese meals are normally served on a series of pretty little dishes, each for a different food. For example, there would be one for soup, one for rice, one for some sushi, and others for each vegetable. By serving food in this way you tend to eat with your eyes, enjoying what you’re seeing, not just what you’re eating. The result of this is that you tend to eat your meal more slowly, giving your brain time to realise that you’re full, so you end up eating less. Research shows that people eat up to 45% more food when served bigger portions!

Green Tea
A bit of an acquired taste, but well worth persevering with because of its numerous health properties, due mainly to its high levels of flavonoids – powerful disease-fighting antioxidants. Research shows a strong link between green tea consumption and lower incidence of several different cancers, including breast, bladder, colon, oesophagus, lung and skin. Green tea is also linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sugoku oishi-so desu ne!  

(It looks delicious, doesn’t it!)