Is Japanese cuisine truly healthy?
What comes to your mind when thinking about Japanese food? Sushi, miso soup, ramen etc… Nowadays you can find more Japanese foods in western towns and cities. To some people they are just for fun, to others they are a fashion statement, but to most people…Japanese food is for wellness.
Is it true that Japanese food is healthy? Yes and no. I would definitely say “no” to you, if you had expensive ramen for lunch and thought you made a great effort for your health. The reason why Japanese people are healthy and live longest in the world is that they specifically avoid those food.
Some of these world famous Japanese food such as sushi may be eaten only in special occasion like New Year’s Eve etc. On the other hand, some are just an occasional treat, such as ramen. Ramen, in fact is one of the most notoriously unhealthy foods.
What makes “healthy food” healthy?
So what is healthy Japanese diet? When you think about that, you must look into the foods Japanese people consume in their daily lives. Unfortunately today’s young Japanese people do not stick to their traditional culture so much. Their lives are more Americanised than older people, but they still know some important rules to have a healthy diet. We call this “Shoku-iku,” (which means diet education), which every Japanese child will learn from their parents or grandparents. It says that healthy foods are “well-balanced meals”.
People might not know what “well-balanced” means. In the case of healthy eating “well-balanced” means nutritiously diverse. Of course Japanese older people did not learn nutrition when they were students. I think this is an amazing aspect of their history; they did not learn but they knew how their foods should be for their health from their very long history.
How can you know if it’s well-balanced?
To judge if it’s well-balanced or not, they have 2 rules: “Ichijiru Sansai” and ”Magowa Yasashii”. “Ichijiru Sansai” says that a well-balanced meal should have 1 soup and 3 side dishes (including a main). ”Magowa Yasashii” literally means “grandchildren are kind”, but also it is an acronym formed from the first letter of ingredients you should have in every meal.
Mame(Beans)…Edamame, Peas, Tofu, Soy, Natto and etc
Goma(Sesame)…Sesame, Almond, Peanuts, Chestnut and etc
Wakame(Seaweeds)…Wakame, Konbu, Hijiki, Nori and etc
Yasai(Vegetable)…Tomatoes, Broccoli, Chinese Cabbage and etc
Sakana(Fish)…Mackerels, Salmons etc
Shiitake(Mushrooms)…Shiitake, Shimeji, Maitake, Eringi and etc
Imo(Potatoes)…Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes and etc
This is the reason that Japanese people are healthy.
And one of the good aspects of having all of these ingredients in your meal is that you can enjoy the harmony of different tastes. They call that harmony “UMAMI”. If you are accustomed to the strong tastes of salt, pepper, sugar or chemicals maybe it’s a little difficult to enjoy. Japanese people polish their sensitivity to “umami” throughout their lives. After you get used to their mild tastes, you will feel satisfied without so much salt, sugar or chemicals.
Is it really possible for you?
Yes it is. Wherever you live, you can definitely follow the rules of shoku-iku. Probably you have now understood why I said sushi and ramen cannot be recognised as healthy foood: such is lack of harmony of various ingredients and ramen has too much salt in it.
If you are interested in following the rules of shoku-iku, then this blog will include some examples of well-balanced meals. You do not have to stick on the rules so strictly. Just relax and take it one step at a time.