‘Eat with your eyes’ and enjoy a healthier balance of small, filling, delicious low-calorific foods. Small portions of beautifully arranged food on individual little dishes is the simple concept behind a healthy Japanese diet. Every bite should be savoured, which means eating slowly and because it gives your brain time to register you are full, eating less.
Serving smaller portions may be one of the best secrets for healthy eating and losing weight. Research has shown that when served more, we tend to eat more, whether we were hungry or not. We tend to eat without thinking so must recondition our expectations by simply becoming used to eating less, especially high calorie, high fat foods.
Research from University of Florida College of Medicine suggests that eating just 8% fewer calories per day, while moderately increasing activity level, may be enough to promote longer life. Energy-dense foods which contain a higher number of calories per gram, such as chocolate and potato chips, could be replaced with less energy-dense foods, such as fruit, vegetables and broth based soups. Such is the basis of much of the healthy, daily Japanese diet.
The Japanese diet includes huge amounts of rice. A small bowl of rice is served with almost every meal, including breakfast. Originally from China, noodles have become an essential part of Japanese cuisine, usually as an alternative to a rice-based meal. Soba, thin brown noodles made from buckwheat, and udon, thick wheat noodles, are the traditional noodles, served hot or cold with soy-dashi flavourings. Another popular Chinese wheat noodle, Ramen, is served hot in a meat stock broth.
Since Japan is an island nation, much seafood has always been eaten, especially as meat-eating was restricted by Buddhism so was not included in the diet until fairly recently. The high proportion of fish consumed by the Japanese means they still eat less red meat with its artery-clogging saturated fat. Fish, especially some of Japan’s favourite fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackeral, sardines and herring, are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, known for their healthy heart benefits.
As many as four or five different vegetables are also included in a Japanese meal, and even breakfast can include vegetable soup or a salad! Finish with a typical Japanese dessert of seasonal fruits, beautifully peeled, sliced and arranged on a well chosen plate and of course, a cup of Japanese green tea for a perfect end to a healthy meal.
Traditionally, most Japanese food was steamed, simmered, boiled or grilled. It is believed that deep-frying and cooking in oil was only introduced by the Portuguese about 1600. A standard Japanese meal generally consists of rice, soup, pickles and several different small dishes, each produced by these different cooking techniques.