Did you know that, on average, Japanese women live until they’re 87 and Japanese men until the age of 81?? On top of living a long life, their quality of life is pretty good as well. Japanese people have lower rates of heart disease, cancer, dementia and obesity.
I’ve recently had the amazing opportunity to travel through Japan, and I discovered some health secrets that I think you should know about if you want to live just as long and just as healthfully as the Japanese.
1- Stop Overeating (and Stop Grazing)
Let’s be honest: grazing is for cows. So unless you wan to look like a cow, stop grazing (i.e., eating/snacking all day). In Japan, people tend to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner – and that’s it. No stress over healthy snacks or eating in prescribed intervals or proportions, just three healthy, satiating meals a day. And I mean satiating! While lower calorically overall (simply by the choice of foods and preparation methods), the meals were filling, delicious and contained a variety of foods and nutrients.
Calorie restriction has been shown repeatedly to contribute to longevity. While I’ve never promoted calorie counting, as I’ve always been an advocate calorie quality over calorie restriction, I do think our society tends to overeat – and just not on the crappy stuff. Just because it is good for you, doesn’t mean you can eat however much you want, whenever you want. Figure out an appropriate serving size, eat your portion and then be done.
2 – Eat slowly
It could be those tricky chopsticks, but I don’t think so. In every restaurant that my wife and I went to, we could see others enjoying their food for hours, sitting and conversing as slow bites were eaten here and there. I can’t prove this for sure, but I think the reason people ate slowly was largely because they were with good company, sitting down at a table and being seemingly present in the moment. While Japan does have less of a take-out food culture than North America (I never saw food or drinks on the subway), my recommendation to all of us in North America is to eat less often in your car, less often in front of a screen, and less often on-the-go. Be mindful and intentional when you eat (and that will also help you with tip #1 above). Why?? Well, here’s two reasons:
- It’s better for digestion – Nutrients get better absorbed and you avoid indigestion, inflammation and food comas.
- You get full at the appropriate time – It takes 20 minutes for your brain to recognize when your belly is full. But if you’re scarfing down food, you’ll definitely overeat.
3 – The foods and drinks at the base of the Japanese diet are super nutritious
The Japanese diet is strictly based on the seasons and what’s found in each region. As a culture, they are meticulous in how the food is preserved and prepared, ensuring that every dish you get is not only nutritious but delicious. While I came across some pretty cool foods that I’d never seen before, these familiar staples can be incorporated easily into your diet for some health benefits.
Lots of Fish – Fish, in some form, is in everything from the miso soup to fresh sashimi. Fish is a great source of protein and brain-boosting and anti-inflammatory omega 3’s.
Lots of veggies – Seaweed, wasabi, daikon, mushrooms have a crazy amount of minerals, vitamins and anti-anti-oxidents, while being very low calorie. Struggling with thyroid issues? Eat as much seaweed as the Japanese do (rich in iodine) and you’ll see some improvement.
High Quality Green Tea (such as matcha) – Often given complimentary before and after the meal, green tea is high in cancer-fighting anti-oxidants, metabolism-boosting EGCG, and detoxifying chlorophyll.
Try out these three simple health secrets from Japan to start seeing some improvements to your health. By the time you’ve incorporated these, I’ll be back with Part 2.