The health benefits of Japanese cooking are widely touted, but the Big Q is: what exactly is a healthy Japanese diet?
Food scientists in Japan have homed in on the nutritional Keys to health and longevity. The new life expectancy for men and women is at a new record high.
Japan boasts one of the longest life expectancies on earth, and it also a world leader in “healthy life expectancy”, the number of years of good health people can expect on average.
Since diet is believed to play a Key role in a population’s health and longevity, researchers around the world have been studying the benefits of the Japanese diet for some time.
The people of Japan do not dine primarily on sushi, tempura, or other well-known Japanese specialties.
And, their eating habits have changed over the years.
This study used national surveys to compile weekly menus representative of the Japanese diet at various points in time over the past 50 years.
The research found the Secrets of the 1975 Diet
What distinguishes the Japanese diet of 1975 to today’s Westernized diet is it strengths of the former can be boiled down to the following:
Variety: The daily menu featured a relatively large number of small dishes, typically at least 3, in addition to soup and rice.
Cooking methods: The Top 3 modes of preparation were simmered, steamed, and raw, followed by boiled and grilled. Frying and sauteeing were somewhat less common. Cooking at high heat, as when frying in oil, can cause nutrients to break down. For example, oily fish like horse mackerel (aji) are rich in the healthy omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. However, the fried version provides only about 1/10th the EPA and DHA of sashimi.
Ingredients: The 1975 diet was rich in soy products, seafood, tubers, green and yellow vegetables including pickles, fruit, seaweed, mushrooms, and green tea. Eggs, dairy products, and meat were consumed as well, but in moderation.
Seasoning: The skillful use of fermented seasonings (soy sauce, miso, vinegar, mirin, and sake) along with dashi broth helped impart a satisfying flavor to foods without the heavy use of salt and sugar.
For the experiments, the researchers incorporated all of the above features into weekly menus to scientifically verify and measure the health benefits of the “1975 Japanese Diet.”
Sample Menu from the 1975 Japanese Diet
|Rice, grilled salted salmon, nattō(fermented soybeans), miso soup with Chinese cabbage & bean sprouts||Kitsune udon (udonnoodles with aburaage), fruit||Rice, nikujaga (potato & meat stew), vinegared mozukuseaweed,clear soup with cabbage and egg|
|Raisin bread, omelet, sausage sautéed with cabbage, fruit, milk||Fried rice, wakameseaweed soup||Rice, chikuzen-ni (root vegetables simmered with chicken), cold tōfu, miso soup with spinach & aburaage(deep-fried sliced tōfu)|
|Rice, dried horse mackerel, komatsuna spinach with clams, sweet & savory runner beans, miso soup with eggplant||Fried noodles, mitsumame (sweet agar jelly) with fruit||Rice, cream stew, blanched Chinese cabbage with dried shrimp in broth, cucumber & hijiki salad|
|Toast, bacon, eggs, fruit, yogurt||Rice steamed with sweet potato, simmered kōyadōfu (freeze-dried tōfu), miso soup with pork & root vegetables||Rice, mackerel simmered with miso, soybeans with mixed vegetables, clear soup with Chinese cabbage & wakame|
|Rice, Japanese rolled omelet, nattō, miso soup with cabbage & aburaage, fruit||Oyako donburi (chicken & egg bowl), vinegared daikon radish & carrot, tsukudani (vegetables or shellfish stewed in soy sauce and mirin)||Rice, horse mackerel escabeche, miso dengaku(skewered tōfu & vegetables glazed with miso sauce), clear soup with Japanese pumpkin & komatsuna spinach|
|Toast, boiled egg, tuna & broccoli salad, fruit, milk||Rice, eggplant sauteed with ground chicken, simmered hijiki seaweed||Rice, simmered flounder, okara (tōfu lees), miso soup with taro root & daikon radish|
|Rice, clams & cabbage steamed in sake, nattō, miso soup with tōfu and aburaage||Sandwiches, consomme, fruit||Rice, sashimi, satsuma-age(fried fish paste) simmered with Chinese cabbage, white salad (with tōfu dressing)|
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live long and lively