Principles of Nutrition That Make Japan One of the Slimmest Nations in the World

Japanese people hold an absolute record for life expectancy. Additionally, they are considered to be the slimmest nation in the world because only 3% of residents suffer from obesity. Their special attitude toward nutrition plays a considerable role in this situation. There is a special nutrition systemthat is recommended by the government and is actively used in Japan. It was developed in 2000 by several ministries and is famous by the name “Japanese food guide spinning top” ( after a popular kids’ toy).

We decided to figure out what is recommended to the Japanese for eating and how they should structure their diets. So here we are, ready to share the results with you.

  • The main feature of the “Japanese food guide spinning top” is the predominance of carbohydrates over low amounts of fat. It’s also recommended to reduce the amount of salt, processed foods, sweets, and drinks containing a lot of sugar.
  • All the products are divided into several groups — each of them has a recommended number of portions per day (the size of the portions depends on the age and gender of a person). The basis of the diet is cereals and grains, which are followed by vegetables (fresh, processed, and in soups), meat, and fish dishes. Fruits and dairy products are suggested at 2 portions per day.

The traditional Japanese diet called “washoku” is one of the key contributing factors to Japan’s low obesity rate and long life expectancy. Afterall, Japan has the largest number of centenarians worldwide. While living with a Japanese homestay family for 3 months I was completely immersed into the Japanese way of eating and found myself eating rice, miso soup and leftovers from dinner for my breakfast. I was fascinated by the positive impact this change in diet had on my overall health and dress size (without feeling like I was deprived of anything).

Now, I want to share with you the 5 elements of the Japanese diet that I believe can help you become healthier, slimmer and most importantly live longer.

1. Balance

The concept of balance is important at Japanese mealtimes, a selection of dishes from the different food groups are cooked in a variety of ways. Japanese rice and miso soup are the foundation of a Japanese meal with fish, soybeans and seaweed featuring heavily on the menu. Japanese food is simple and tasty with most Japanese dishes cooked gently and seasoned with light sauces. Ireland is the perfect place to find ingredients for Japanese cooking as like Japan we are an island nation and blessed with seaweed, seafood and fish.

2. Way of eating

A Japanese meal is eaten in a communal fashion using chopsticks. This way of eating actually encourages people to eat slowly and appreciate the taste and appearance of the dishes. There is a saying in Japan – Hara hachi bu – which means eat until you are 80% full. Adopting this principle avoids overeating and feeling overfull, as it takes time for food to travel to the stomach and alert the brain that it’s 100% full.
3. Green Tea

There are numerous health benefits associated with green tea including high levels of anti-oxidants. When I first moved to Japan I was surprised to see a better selection of chilled bottled green tea in their vending machines compared to other carbonated soft drinks. I love drinking organic matcha which is a powdered green tea traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies.

4. Breakfast

Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day in Japan. Japanese people often eat rice and miso soup for breakfast along with any leftovers from dinner. Starting the day with a hearty breakfast kick starts the body and prevents any hunger pangs and unplanned snacking before lunch. I find miso soup topped with a poached egg and Japanese seven spice gives me a great start to the day.

5. Desserts

Fruit is often eaten as a dessert at the end of a meal or included as part of a Japanese lunch (bento). Japanese traditional desserts are made from rice and beans and tend to be eaten on special occasions along with green tea. Western influenced desserts are considered a special treat and the portion sizes are much smaller. I noticed that I don’t crave desserts after a Japanese meal as the umami in Japanese cooking makes you feel satisfied. SHOW MORE