The traditional Japanese diet is a healthy, whole-food diet that is rich in fish, seafood and also plant-based with minimal amounts of animal protein, added sugars and fats. The healthy Japanese diet is based on traditional Japanese cuisine, also known as washoku ’which consists of small dishes made with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients..
The healthy Japanese diet is very rich in nutrients and very good for you.
This way of eating is rich in nutrients and can have many health benefits, including weight loss, digestion, longevity and improved well-being. In this article you will find everything you want to know about the traditional Japanese diet.
The Traditional Japanese Diet Can Help You Lose Weight and Stay Healthy
What is the Japanese healthy diet ?
The traditional Japanese diet consists of lightly processed and seasonal foods that are served in a wide variety of small dishes. This eating style emphasizes natural tasting dishes instead of masking the taste with sauces and seasonings.
This healthy diet contains a lot of steamed rice, noodles, fish, tofu, natto, seaweed and fresh, cooked or pickled fruits and vegetables but very low in added sugars and fats. The diet may also contain eggs, dairy products or meat, although these products are often present in very small quantities..
The healthy diet has lots of steamed rice and noodles
The Japanese diet is similar to the Okinawan diet, whose origins are on the Japanese island of Okinawa, but includes much more rice and fish. The traditional Japanese diet contrasts with modern Japanese cuisine, which is heavily influenced by the West and China and includes large amounts of animal protein and processed foods..
In summary, it can be said that the Japanese diet is rich in lightly processed, fresh and seasonal foods. It contains very low amounts of added sugars, fats and animal proteins and accentuates on fish, seafood, rice, noodles, seaweed, soybeans, fruits and vegetables.
How to follow the healthy Japanese diet ?
Japanese meals usually consist of staple foods combined with soup, a main course, and a few side dishes..
-Staple foods: steamed rice or soba, ramen or udon noodles.
-Soup: usually a miso soup made with seaweed, seafood or tofu and vegetables in a fermented soy broth. Vegetable and noodle soups are other popular options.
-Main course: fish, seafood, tofu or natto with optional small amounts of meat, poultry or eggs
-Side dishes: raw, steamed, sautéed, grilled or marinated vegetables, wild plants, seaweed and raw or pickled fruits.
Japanese meals are known for their rich umami taste, which is described as the fifth taste, separated by sweet, salty, bitter and hot. Naturally occurring umami enriches the taste of vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods in Japanese cuisine.
Another important aspect of Japanese natural cuisine is visual appearance. The dishes are eaten by making small bites with chopsticks, since this method creates a rich harmony of tastes, according to the Japanese. Hot green tea or cold barley tea are the drinks of choice, while alcoholic beverages such as beer or sake are typically served for dinner. Snacks are uncommon and rarely eaten.
Traditional Japanese dishes consist of steamed rice or noodles served with hot soup, seafood or a soy dish and a few side dishes. Umami of natural origin is used to improve the taste of food.
Potential Health Benefits of the Healthy Japanese Diet
The traditional Japanese diet is linked to many positive health effects. The Japanese diet is very rich in nutrients and beneficial compounds. It is naturally rich in many nutrients, including fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A, C and E.
Vegetables contribute to the nutrient density of this diet and are often cooked in dashi, a dried fish and a broth made from sea vegetables. This reduces their bulk and improves their taste, making them easier to eat in large quantities. The diet also offers plenty of seaweed and green tea. Seaweed and green tea are excellent sources of antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that protect the body against cell damage and certain diseases. In addition to this, the large amount of fish and seaweed dishes included in the diet offer omega 3 which helps in the brain, eyes and heart health..
- Japanese diet can improve digestion
Sea algae, soybeans, fruits and vegetables are naturally high in fiber, a nutrient that helps digestion. Insoluble fiber helps food pass through the intestines and adds bulk to stool, reducing the risk of constipation.
These foods also boast soluble fiber which feeds the beneficial bacteria in the stomach and helps reduce the space available for bad bacteria to multiply. When bacteria in the stomach feed on soluble fiber, they produce short-chain fatty acids that can reduce inflammation and symptoms of irritated bowels, symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis..
In addition to that, the pickled fruits and vegetables often eaten in this diet are a very good source of probiotics. These beneficial bacteria improve gut health and reduce digestive symptoms like gas, constipation, diarrhea and bloating..
- The Japanese diet can help you maintain a healthy weight
The traditional Japanese diet is rich in vegetables, offers small portion sizes, and is also naturally low in added sugars and fats. These factors all contribute to a very low calorie diet..
On top of that, Japanese culture encourages eating until you feel 80 percent full. This practice discourages overeating and can contribute to the calorie deficit that is so necessary for weight loss. On top of that, some scientific research shows that high fiber vegetables, soybeans, and soups typical of the Japanese diet can help reduce appetite and help one feel full and thus aid in weight control. There is also some evidence to suggest that alternating between meals is very common during traditional Japanese meals and this fact can reduce the amount of food eaten per meal..
- The Japanese diet may protect against chronic disease
The traditional Japanese diet may protect against medical conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The healthy Japanese diet is naturally rich in fish, algae, green tea, fruits and vegetables but very low in added sugars, fats and animal proteins. All of these can protect against heart disease.
In fact, the risk of cardiovascular disease among Japanese people remains very low despite the fact that their food is very high in salt, which typically increases the risk of this type of disease. On top of that, in a 6-week scientific study of 33 people who followed the Japanese diet, 91 percent of these men had a significant reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes, including overweight and bad cholesterol..
The increased consumption of green tea which is encouraged by the Japanese diet may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and certain types of cancer.
- The Japanese Diet May Help You Live Longer
Japan is one of the countries with the highest life expectancy, which experts attribute to the traditional Japanese diet. In fact, the Japanese island of Okinawa is considered a Blue Zone, which is a region with a very high longevity. It is good to know that the Okinawan diet focuses on eating sweet potatoes and has less rice and fish than the traditional Japanese diet..
In a 15-year scientific study of 75,000 Japanese people, people who strictly followed the traditional Japanese diet had a 15 percent lower risk of premature death compared to people who followed the Japanese diet. western countries. Experts link the augmented life experience to the traditional Japanese diet’s emphasis on whole foods, minimally processed, and its low content of sugar and fat. The traditional Japanese diet is rich in nutrients and can help with digestion, weight loss, and longevity. The diet may also reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Foods to Consume in the Traditional Japanese Diet
The Japanese diet is rich in:
- Fish and seafood. All types of fish and seafood can be included. These foods can be eaten steamed, grilled, cooked or raw as in the case of sushi and sashimi..
- Soy foods. The most common foods include edamame, tofu, soy sauce, tamari, and natto.
- Fruits and vegetables. Generally, fruits are eaten raw or pickled, while vegetables are steamed, sautéed, pickled, in soups.
- Sea vegetables are a big part of the traditional Japanese diet. Seaweed is usually eaten raw or dried.
- Light dough is made by mixing wheat flour with ice or sparkling water. It serves as batter for seafood and fried vegetables.
- Rice or noodles. Steamed rice is a staple in the traditional Japanese diet. Other popular options are soba, ramen or udon served lukewarm oi with hot soup.
- Hot green tea and cold barley tea are the staple drinks in the diet, although beer or sake can be consumed with dinner..
Small amounts of red meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products can be included in the diet. Yet these foods are not a large part of the traditional diet..
Foods to Limit or Avoid
The traditional Japanese diet limits or excludes the following foods:
- Dairy products: butter, milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc..
- Red meat and poultry: beef, pork, chicken, turkey etc..
- Eggs: cooked, fried in omelet etc.
- Excess fats, oils and sauces: margarine, cooking oils, dressings, fatty sauces etc..
- Bakery products: bread, tortillas, croissants, pies, brownies, muffins etc..
- Processed or sweet foods: cereals, granola bars, sweets, sugary drinks, etc..
Desserts can be included in the traditional Japanese diet but these desserts are made from natural ingredients such as fruits, matcha, red bean paste etc..
Example of a simple menu for the traditional Japanese diet
Here is a typical traditional Japanese menu for three days:
Day 1 :
-Breakfast: miso soup, steamed rice, natto, and seaweed salad.
-Midday meal: soba noodles in a dashi-based broth, grilled tuna, kale salad and boiled vegetables.
-Dinner: Udon noodle soup, fish pie, edamame and pickled vegetables.
-Breakfast: miso soup, steamed rice, an omelet, dried trout, pickled fruit
-Midday meal: clam chowder, rice balls wrapped in seaweed, marinated tofu and cooked vegetable salad.
-Dinner: miso soup, sushi, seaweed salad, edamame and pickled ginger.
-Breakfast: udon noodle soup, a hard-boiled egg, shrimp and pickled vegetables
-Lunch: shiitake chamoignon soup, rice cake, seared scallops and steamed vegetables.
Dinner: miso soup, steamed rice, tempura vegetables and salmon or tuna sashimi
The traditional Japanese diet combines simple soups, steamed rice or noodles, fish, seafood, tofu, natto, and a variety of minimally processed side dishes..
The healthy Japanese diet focuses on whole, minimally processed, nutrient-dense, and seasonal foods. It is very rich in seafood, vegetables and fruits and limits meat, dairy products and snacks.
The Japanese Diet May Improve Digestion and Help With Weight Loss, Help Longevity, and Protect Against Certain Diseases.