The Japanese have the longest life span in the world with 86 years for women and 79 years for men. All of this is thanks to what they eat thus making the island nation with the lowest obesity rate (3%) in the developed world. “The Japanese diet is the iPod of food,” says Naomi Moriyama, a dietician, “it concentrates the magnificent energy of food into a compact and pleasurable size.”
1. Eat with your eyes
There’s a proverb in Japan that literally translates as “Not dressing up the meal with color is like sending someone out of the house without clothes.” Traditional Japanese meals use food items that are red, green, yellow, white and black in colour to give the food an aesthetic appeal and reflect the nature of the seasons. Compare a platter of sushi or a bento box to a hamburger and fries (although the latter is perceived as delicious and can be wolfed down) the former is a work of art that has to be appreciated like art. Go slow, take small bites, relish every flavour.
2. Smaller portions
Break down your meal into smaller portions, this way you can enjoy a greater variety of foods.
Scientists in the University Of Illinois found that people tend to eat up to 45% more when they are served bigger portions. They filled their plates according to it’s size. So bigger the plate, larger the portion size.
Lesson learnt: Use dessert and salad plates.
3. Fill your stomach up to only 80%
Or Hara hachi bunme as it is said in Japanese. The idea is to reinforce the eating of smaller portions. We have been raised to eat until we are absolutely full so that we don’t feel hungry later. However it’s better to not stuff ourselves and only eat until we feel adequately full.
Yes you will feel hungry after a few hours but that’s ok. It means lesser pressure on intestines and slowing down of the aging process of cells which can help to prevent cancer, heart attacks and diabetes.
4. Light dinner or supper
Following the 80% rule discussed above, a light dinner puts less pressure on your intestines and allows you to digest your food in your sleep. Heavy meals can sometimes make you wake up feeling full in the morning and this upsets your routine when you skip breakfast.
5. Rice is nice
Rice is a low fat complex carbohydrate that helps fill you up on lower calories (small bowl of rice has lesser calories than two slices of bread) This will not keep you hungry and craving for snacks right after your meal.
6. Eat more than 5 types of vegetables a day
Preferably of different colours if you are like a Japanese lady who has an OCD.
The Japanese incorporate about 4-5 types of vegetables in each meal which make up the major bulk. They are sometimes eaten raw as a salad or cooked in a broth which enhances its flavours. Stir fried vegetables taste delicious but sadly their nutrients are gone.
Warning! Avoid salad dressings which contain mayonnaise, opt for yoghurt based dressings or vinaigrettes and lemon juice.
7. Eat vegetables first
Now that you’re sorted with vegetables being part of your meal and are ready to dig in, beeline for the veggies first!
Why? Your mom would say save the best for last, but the real reason is that vegetables absorb toxins that are already present. Vegetables are full of fibre and when you consume them first, this fibre helps to cover whatever is eaten after and inhibits insulin spikes and the speed at which sugar is transported into the blood.
Proteins are harder to digest when they are eaten first and everything else eaten after would take time making you feel bloated. Raw vegetables contain a digestive enzyme that helps break down proteins.
8. Replace red meat with fish
Japanese favourites like salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna, sardines and herring are a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids which are known for their heart-health and mood boosting benefits. The island nation accounts for 2% of the worlds population but consumes 10% of the worlds fish.
9. Fermented foods
Fermented foods such as Yoghurt, dahi, Miso (fermented soy bean paste) and Tofu control high blood sugar levels. They support and strengthen immune and digestive systems, preventing diseases such as cancer.
Try to make fermented foods a part of your meal or consume them after you are done eating. A small bowl of dahi after an Indian meal works equally well.
10. Soy Products
When consumed in moderation, soy products like Tofu and Edamame beans which are rich in protein are a good vegetarian alternative for red meat as they have little or no saturated fat.
Recently, research has proven cows milk as not fit for human consumption as it causes the body to produce mucous. Healthier options are soy milk and almond milk. Soy milk contains vitamin B1, B2, B6 and E which helps to rejuvenate the skin and prevent acne breakouts.
It contains 8 essential amino acids and has a fair amount of protein.
11. Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Desserts in Japan are usually beautifully decorated plates with sliced fresh fruit of the season. Like vegetables, a variety of fruits should be eaten.
Remember to eat seasonal and local produce.
12. Tea is key
Green tea is low in calories and caffeine which makes it an excellent alternative to coffee and other creamy beverages. It aids digestion and the anti-oxidants it contains helps to clear the system of any toxins.
13. Indulge in moderation
The Japanese diet seems to be very strict and you might think its a routine for skinny supermodels, but there is always room to indulge. The Japanese love western sweets and dark chocolate but if you notice, they are very small.
Junk food is eaten once in a while and when it is, it is forgotten with healthy servings of broth, vegetables and green tea the next day.