Nutrition

The Typical Japanese Diet

Hello, World!

Where have I been? Did I fall off of the Earth? Is HappyBodyBlog over? Never fear! Rachel is here! I do greatly apologize for the time lapse- I have been in Japan! Can you believe it? My dream of studying abroad in Japan has finally come true, and life with my host family has been phenominal. Unfortunately, because my life has been so busy because of my studies, I have had no time for HappyBodyBlog! I barely have time to work out (but no worries, I always make time). In less than 2 weeks I will be back in America and HBB will resume with business as usual!

In the mean time, because I have to be educational in all of my posts 😉 , I wanted to talk about the typical Japanese diet. I must say, for the looongest time, I could not figure out how the Japanese stay so slim. Everywhere you go, there’s lots of pastries, sweets, desserts, and fried foods! Even at McDonald’s, the portion size for french fries is huge just like America (I do admit, I have been to McDonald’s here, but I feel like it’s a must when in a foreign country lol)! Like any other culture though, that is only the surface. Unlike Americans, the Japanese walk everywhere. I mean everywhere. Public transit is much more popular (and convenient) that driving a car. You have to walk to the station, stand on the incredibly crowded train, then walk to your destination. Since walking and standing for long periods of time is a low intensity workout, the body tends to burn a higher percentage of fat. I’ve been able to partake in the not-so-healthy foods without gaining weight because I am constantly moving. I still find it amazing.

Of course, Japanese food isn’t just fried potato (that’s what they call french fries) and desserts! There is much more to their diet. As you may have suspected, the Japanese eat copious amounts of rice and fish. They never eat brown rice. Ever. My host mom was surprised when I told her that in America, it’s common to eat sushi made with brown rice. White rice, despite our common belief, does have some health benefits. It is a great protein source, and therefore amino acid source, so it is good for muscle health. It is also easily digestible, so it is a safe choice when you have nausea or diarrhea.

Fish, on the other hand, is loaded with nutrients and health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish improve heart health and function, lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke, prevents inflammation, and also aids brain health, possibly leading to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and depression. If you aren’t allergic to fish, I highly recommend adding it to your diet!

If this wasn’t amazing enough, the Japanese also eat a lot of miso soup. You know, that soup with the tofu and seaweed they serve at every Japanese restaurant in America? Yeah, it is just as amazing as the health benefits of fish. Not only is miso soup incredibly delicious, miso is a complete protein- it contains every amino acid! It is also high in antioxidants (which reduce your risk of cancer), B vitamins which give your body energy, and improves digestive health. The oligosaccharides in miso balance the bacteria in your intestines. Miso truly is an amazing ingredient!

Seaweed is a highly used ingredient in Japanese cooking. This is truly a super food. Found in many forms, seaweed is a highly versatile ingredient. At the top of the list, seaweed contains high amounts of iodine, which is essential for thyroid health. The thyroid controls hormone release in the body, and is a huge determinant of weight. Iodine is added to tyrosine to create hormones which regulate metabolism. Without a good metabolism, maintaining a good weight is near impossible! Seaweed also contains high amounts of B vitamins and magnesium, which can reduce blood pressure.

Just based on these 4 items (rice, fish, miso, and seaweed), you can see all of the health benefits that the Japanese enjoy. I also have found a new appreciation for fruit thanks to Japan. Fruit is treated as something very special- it’s a treat and a dessert. I have always disliked apples unless they were covered in peanut butter or in pie, but Japan has the most delicious apples. Ever. Their peaches are also amazing. In fact, most of the time my host family serves fruit for dessert (melon, peaches, pineapple, etc). Japanese have it all figured out- fruit contains a lot of sugar, so it is nature’s dessert. Fruit is so much healthier for you than eating pie, cake, brownies, etc. The more I think about the Japanese diet, the more I understand how they stay so slim and healthy!

So, who’s adventurous enough to try cooking a Japanese meal? Maybe some okonomiyaki or somen? Of course the Japanese eat much more than just the items I described, but this is just a small view into the basic essentials. I encourage you all to try something new, and enjoy the wonderful things that other cultures have to offer!

As always, be sure to check out my Facebook page and Twitter for updates and daily tips on how to stay healthy

Peace and love!

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