There’s a reason why many Japanese people don’t show signs of aging and live a longer life. It’s not genetics; they simply eat better. Japanese people live longer and healthier lives than anyone else in the world. With the lowest obesity rate in the developed world, Japanese people can anticipate an average life of 75 years free of illness and disability. I am blessed to have been raised by a Japanese mother, to whom preparing a meal is an art. When my mother announces that dinner is served, I approach the kitchen table, which is full of color and a variety of small dishes. Why eat a thousand calories of the same thing? A typical Japanese meal includes, miso soup, a meat or fish entrée, cooked vegetables, tofu, and salad, always accompanied with a bowl of white rice and green tea.
You might be surprised as to why I didn’t include sushi in the mix. It’s a common misunderstanding that Japanese people eat sushi at every meal. Sushi is only eaten for special occasions, such as a birthday celebration, Christmas or graduation. Sorry to disappoint you, but there is so much more to Japanese food than sushi.
The average Japanese meal consists of at least two soy dishes, such as edamame, tofu or miso soup. You may have seen edamame served as appetizers in restaurants. They’re boiled green soybeans trapped inside of a pod. Please make sure not to eat the outer shell. I can’t help but laugh at my friends who eat the edamame in its entirety, instead of popping the beans out of its pod. Soy is a great source of protein and a great alternative to red meat because it has little to no saturated fat.
Vegetables are also an important aspect of the Japanese diet. Japanese people are thought to be “vegetable-crazy,” and serve four to five different types of vegetables in each meal. The most common vegetables are steamed or cooked green beans, eggplant, carrots, spinach, bamboo shoots, turnips, white radish (called daikon), shitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes and variations of seaweed. The best part about it is that these dishes actually taste good, because Japanese sauces are to die for! My mother cooks vegetables with homemade teriyaki sauce (soy sauce, sugar and mirin, or Japanese rice wine), or yakiniku sauce (soy sauce, sesame seed oil, with a hint of garlic and ginger). These sauces make even the nastiest vegetables taste great! Some households eat salads or vegetable soup for breakfast, but we don’t go that crazy in our house!
Japanese people consume fish more than any other nation. Statistics show that although Japan only makes up 2% of the globe, Japanese people eat 10% of the world’s fish. The most common fish are salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines, all full of omega-3s, which help decrease inflammation throughout our body and boost our heart health. Fish is our alternative to red meats, which contain saturated fats that can increase the risk of obesity and heart disease.
You don’t have to cook a Japanese-style meal in order to extend your life span and slow aging like the Japanese. All you have to do is add more fish, tofu, vegetables, fruits and green tea to your diet and serve smaller portions.