6 Secrets behind Japan’s Low Obesity, Longevity, and Health

“What if there was a land where people lived longer than anywhere else on earth, obesity was remarkably low, and women in their forties still looked like they were in their twenties? Wouldn’t you want to know their extraordinary secret?” — Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat by Naomi Moriyami

Source: Lizzie McGuire

Source: Lizzie McGuire

The secret, Naomi Moriyama explains in her book, can be found in her mother’s Tokyo kitchen — Japanese home cooking (as opposed to the sushi and izakaya plates we typically see in restaurants).

Here are 6 secrets from inside a Japanese mother’s kitchen that you can incorporate to make your life healthier!

Secret 1: The five pillars of the Japanese diet are fish, soy, rice, vegetables, and fruit

Japanese people eat more than 2x as much fish, 10x as much soy products, and 5x as much cruciferous veggies (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage) as Americans do. In exchange, they eat significantly less milk, butter, cheese, pasta, and red meat.

Easy resolution: Substitute fish for meat whenever you can!

Source: Hauling Gear

Source: Hauling Gear

Secret 2: The Japanese eat much smaller portions, and think carefully about how their food is presented. 

In Japan, food is meant to be eaten slowly, and every bite should be savored. Meals are presented on tableware that is much smaller, and the principles of food presentation are:

  • Never completely fill the plate
  • Each item is served on its own dish

Easy resolution: Savor your food more by focusing on it — when you eat, only eat — it can take as little as 15 minutes and you’ll be recharged to do what you need to do next with more focus and energy

Source: jesuisteleactrice

Source: jesuisteleactrice

Secret 3: For Japanese cooking, the best cooking is the least cooking 

Japanese kitchens are usually too small for ovens, so Japanese people usually gently steam, pan-grill, sauté, simmer, or stir-fry their food. These methods preserve more of a food’s nutrients.

Easy resolution: When you cook, try to make sure people can recognize what the food looked like in its natural state (e.g. potato –> mashed potato doesn’t pass the test)

Secret 4: The Japanese eat rice instead of bread with every meal

Japanese people eat a medium portion of rice with almost every meal and by having it, they are able to avoid the more processed and less fiber-rich calories in muffins, rolls, and white bread.

Easy resolution: replace rice for bread for one meal this week

Secret 5: Japanese people have mastered the power breakfast

A typical breakfast in Japan includes green tea, a bowl of steamed rice, miso soup with tofu, nori seaweed, fruit, and a small omelette or piece of grilled salmon. In Japan, breakfast is the most important and often biggest meal of the day.

Easy resolution: Make sure you always eat breakfast!

Source: Tumblr

Source: Tumblr

Secret 6: The Japanese have a healthier relationship with food

Probably the single most important difference – Japanese people have a healthier relationship with food.

“Americans primarily associate food with health objectives such as being thin [rather than] with the simple pleasure of a satisfying meal.” — Steve Hawks, Associate Professor of Health Science @ Brigham Young University

Easy resolution: stop thinking about calories and instead focus on how wonderful food tastes and how satisfied you are when you have had a good meal

Source: 30 Rock

Source: 30 Rock

What to do next?

  • Learn some of the basics of Japanese cooking by coming to our Onigilly event — get some hands-on action with Japanese ongiri and Onigilly’s high quality seafood/meat/veggie fillings
  • Copy this easy resolution list:
    1. Substitute fish for meat whenever you can!
    2. Savor your food more by focusing on it — when you eat, only eat — it can take as little as 15 minutes and you’ll be recharged to do what you need to do next with more focus and energy
    3. When you cook, try to make sure people can recognize what the food looked like in its natural state
    4. Replace rice for bread for one meal this week
    5. Make sure you always eat breakfast!
    6. Stop thinking about calories and instead focus on how wonderful food tastes and how satisfied you are when you have had a good meal
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