The traditional Japanese diet is considered one of the healthiest diets and possibly the reason Japanese people have a greater life expectancy than many parts of the world.
According to World Health Organization reports, the average life expectancy for Japanese men and women is 79 and 86 years, respectively (compared to 75 and 80 years for Americans).
What is the traditional Japanese diet?
The traditional Japanese diet mainly consists of unprocessed foods. It is rich in grains and vegetables, includes a moderate amount of animal products, and is low in fats and added sugars.
The diet includes:
- Cooked and raw fish and seafood
- Pickled, fermented, and smoked foods
- Rice or noodles
- Small amounts of red meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy
- Soybeans, usually in the form of tofu or fresh edamame
- Fermented soybean products such as miso and natto
- Beans such as aduki
- Land and sea vegetables including seaweed
- Fruits such as fuji apples, tangerines, and persimmons
- Green tea and matcha tea
What are the health benefits of the traditional Japanese diet?
The Japanese diet is low in calories and fat but rich in various nutrients, which promotes weight loss, digestion, and disease prevention:
- Rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and E
- High in antioxidants, which protect the body against cellular damage
- High in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote brain and eye health
- Low in added sugar and processed fats, which help with weight loss
- Rich in phytoestrogens, which help protect against certain cancers
- Rich in fiber, which promotes gut health and reduces the risk of constipation
- Anti-inflammatory, which can help prevent symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis
- Helps lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart diseases
What does the typical Japanese meal include?
According to Japanese dietary guidelines, the Japanese typically eat three large meals and two snacks a day.
The traditional way of eating in Japan is called “ichi-ju, san-sai,” which is the basic arrangement of a meal, consisting of one soup and three side dishes (called Okazu). This way of eating encourages the consumption of a wide variety of ingredients at each meal.
Japanese people also have a saying “hara hachi bu”, which means to eat until you are 80% full and is a healthy eating habit often taught to children from a very young age.
Due to the overall focus on eating a balanced meal of low-calorie foods in modest portions, the Japanese diet is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world.
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Jenny Kovacs. Diets of the World: The Japanese Diet. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/diets-of-world-japanese-diet
The Role of the Japanese Traditional Diet in Healthy and Sustainable Dietary Patterns around the World. NIH: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852749/
Japanese Health and Nutrition information. The Japan Dietetic Association: https://www.dietitian.or.jp/english/health/