What Is the Japanese Diet, and Can it Help the Heart?

As anyone who binged on Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix might assume, the Japanese diet is based around minimalism: minimal animal protein, sugar or sauces, minimally processed ingredients and smaller portions. It offers many health benefits, especially for the heart. Men in Japanese suffer from heart disease at half the rate of men living in the U.S.

Studies have suggested that it is because fish is such a prevalent part of the diet. In the study, men living in Japan had twice the levels of omega-3 fatty in their blood than men in the U.S. — regardless of ethnic background. They also have significantly less hardening and narrowing in their arteries. This is despite the fact that the diet is quite high in salt.

The extremely high intake of fish in Japan may explain the much lower rate of atherosclerosis and subsequent coronary heart disease,” researcher Dr. Akira Sekikawa told WebMD. “This study does not prove that omega-3 is protecting these men, but we showed that artery thickness decreased as omega-3 levels went up.”

People in Japan tend to eat three ounces of fish a day, in the U.S., we don’t eat anywhere near that much. “We are not a nation that loves fish, and that isn’t likely to change,” William Harris, of the American Heart Association said. “But it is increasingly clear that we need to get more omega-3 into our diets.”

In addition to fish, the diet contains a lot of rice, broth-based soup, noodles, soy products and veggies — with only small amounts of baked goods, fats, sugar, meat, poultry, dairy or eggs. Additionally, teas are the most common drink, and snacks barely exist. Because there tends to be a lot of variation in foods, the diet is rich in antioxidants, fiber and vitamins. The dishes included in the diet tend to be higher in umami and require less seasoning. Because portions are smaller — and fats used sparingly — the diet has an overall lower calorie count than the western standards, and people are less likely to overeat accidentally. But, don’t fret, if you have a sweet tooth and want to follow the eating style, there are delicious things available. Japanese desserts are frequently based on red bean paste, matcha or fruit — excluding any added sweeteners. When western-style sugary treats are enjoyed, they are portioned much less generously than we would expect.

In a study with 33 men following the Japanese style of eating, 91 percent saw weight loss and lower LDL cholesterol. Boiled grilled or steamed, the cooking methods primarily used don’t call for extra fat or added sugar. Culturally, people in Japan are encouraged to eat only until they are eighty percent full and then stop.

So, take a look at the Japanese diet. You might just find it fits your style: rich and bold flavors can really help when you are trying to change up the way you eat and make positive changes in your life!
November 07, 2019
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