Why are the Japanese people known for their health and longevity?
Undoubtedly because the traditional Japanese diet is based around seasonal dishes of fish, rice, soy and vegetables, with very little red meat, dairy products and processed foods. Add to that the healthy but simple foundations to serve smaller portions and eat slowly and it is easy to see why more and more health-conscious Westerners are turning to, and including, much of the traditional Japanese diet.
A key factor for the low levels of heart disease in Japan is considered to be the high amount of fish in the traditional Japanese diet. Eating on average twice as much fish as meat, they eat an incredible variety of fish in an equally incredible variety of ways. Other healthy components of their diet include grains (rice and buckwheat), soy (tofu, miso, soy sauce), vegetables, fruit, seaweed, rich in antioxidants and minerals and green tea also rich in antioxidants, widely recognised in preventing some forms of cancer. Even some Japanese seasonings and sauces are healthy, such as wasabi, ginger and dashi, made from dried bonito and seaweed.
Meat was made taboo from the introduction of Buddhism in the sixth century but has been a status food since late nineteenth century. As Japan has continued to modernise, red meat and dairy consumption has increased. The traditional Japanese diet has included an escalating variety of foreign foods, with a subsequent increase in diet-related diseases, including diabetes and obesity. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Younger Japanese are increasing in height and bone-density, with many combining their traditional diet with a vast array of foreign cuisines and exotic but healthy options.