The Japanese diet is often regarded as one of the healthiest diets in the world, Japanese people tend to live longer and have one of the lowest rates of obesity in the developed world. The Japanese diet is healthy and easy to follow as many of the ingredients are readily available in the UK.
Traditional Japanese cuisine relies heavily on its surrounding oceans to provide the main ingredient for many of its meals. Seafood including fish, octopus, squid, crab, clams, shrimp, lobster and seaweed are a staple part of many Japanese meals. Even more standard though than the use of seafood, is the use of rice. Rice is eaten with almost every meal. Rice as a carbohydrate produces amounts of insoluble fibre. Scientists believe this type of fibre can help protect against a variety of cancers.
As one of the most beneficial diets in the world, below is a list of the top six healthiest ingredients accompanied by their health benefits:
Miso – Miso is a fermented soybean paste used as a flavouring agent, most commonly found in miso soup. Miso contains many trace minerals including zinc, manganese, and copper, which can help to strengthen the immune system, boost energy, and protect bones and blood vessels. It is also a rich source of protein. Studies have also found that substances in miso help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Seaweed – Seaweeds like kelp, wakame, arame and dulse are commonly used to make Japanese salads and are added to soups, stews and other dishes. Seaweed is also used as a wrap for sushi. Seaweed contains the broadest range of minerals and vitamins of any food, all of which are essential for producing energy.
Natto – Natto is also made from fermented soybeans and is a common breakfast food in Japan. It is most often eaten with rice, soy sauce and chopped green onion. Natto is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B2, and vitamin K2, which is said to be useful for preventing osteoporosis. It contains compounds including phytoestrogen, selenium and others that may help prevent cancer, and also contains a powerful beneficial enzyme called nattokinase. Nattokinase has reportedly been found to help prevent and reduce the risk of blood clots, as well as provide heart-protective benefits. Some studies suggest that nattokinase can also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Mushrooms – Many mushroom varieties, including shitake and enoki, are popularly used in Japanese cuisine. They are used in soups, salads and many other dishes. Mushrooms are rich in protein, fibre, vitamins C and B, calcium and minerals, but they are also renowned for their many medicinal properties.
They have reportedly been shown to:
- Protect heart health
- Lower the risk of cancer
- Boost immune function
- Reduce high cholesterol
- Fight off viruses, bacteria and fungi
- Reduce inflammation
- Combat allergies
- Help balance blood sugar levels
- Support the body’s detoxification mechanisms
- Help fight blood clots
Green tea – Green tea is traditionally served at the end of a meal in Japan. Green tea is a rich source of polyphenols known as catechins; these are the antioxidants which appear to be responsible for many of green tea’s health benefits. Green tea has reportedly been found to help:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart disease
- Impaired immune function
- High blood sugar levels
Sashimi – Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish, savoured for its simplicity and taste. Often served with wasabi and soy sauce, sometimes a bowl of rice. Sashimi offers all of the benefits that fresh fish has to offer: an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fats, and other nutrients like selenium, niacin and vitamin B12, phosphorous, magnesium and vitamin B6. As sashimi is consumed raw, it is possible for it to contain parasites, but choosing “sashimi grade” fish, or dining at a reputable restaurant, should reduce these risks.
A typical Japanese meal will consist of rice, a bowl of miso soup, pickled vegetables and fish or meat as they main ingredient. Noodles are often served as an alternative to rice as they are cheap to produce and remain a good source of carbohydrate.
Japanese people are said to eat over 100 varieties of food a week as opposed to that of 30-45 in Western cultures. Japanese cuisine is most commonly known for its:
- Rice dishes
- Noodle dishes.
- Seafood / sushi dishes.
- Nabe dishes – hot pot dishes.
- Meat dishes.
- Soya bean dishes.
- Yoshoku dishes – Japanese Western dishes