The traditional Japanese diet has been associated with impressive longevity and and low incidence of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, according to a 2009 study published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition." The preferred foods, such as seafood, fresh vegetables, rice and tofu, are highly nutritious but generally low in calories and saturated fat. It also helps that the meals are traditionally served in small portions.
Sushi made with fresh vegetables, seafood and meat can be quite a healthy meal. Fresh seafood, particularly salmon, crab and shrimp are high in healthy fats and protein. In a 3-ounce serving, salmon has 18.8 grams of protein and 10.5 grams of fat; crab has 17.7 grams of protein and 1.5 grams of fat; and shrimp 17.7 grams of protein and 0.92 grams of fat. The white rice typically used has about 36.7 grams of carbohydrate per cup, so if you are watching your weight, be conscious of your portion sizes, or cut out the rice entirely and enjoy sashimi. Avoid sushi with tempura, which is a fried batter, and topped with mayonnaise, as these are high in saturated and trans fats.
Seaweed is commonly used in Japanese cuisine, either as in ingredient or as a snack on its own. Many Japanese eat around four to six grams of seaweed per day, and it has recently been touted as an extremely beneficial health food. The Life Extension Foundation reports that molecules in seaweed, known as fucoidans, are associated with healthy cell regeneration, increased immunity and better cardiovascular function. Fucoidans are also associated with reduced risk of metabolic disease and arthritis.
Miso, Tempeh and Tofu
Miso, tempeh and tofu are all traditional Japanese foods made from soy beans. At 630 milligrams per tablespoon, miso is high in sodium, but is also fermented, making it a beneficial probiotic. Tofu and tempeh are rich in protein and calcium, and low in saturated fat. One hundred grams of tofu yields 17.19 grams of protein, and 20.18 grams of fat, of which only 2.9 grams are saturated, and 372 milligrams of calcium. One hundred grams of tempeh yields 18.19 grams of protein, 11.38 grams of fat, with 3.4 grams of saturated fat, and 96 milligrams of calcium. Tofu and tempeh are useful meat replacements for vegetarians or those looking to reduce their meat consumption.
Red Bean Desserts
The red-brown adzuki bean is commonly used in Japanese sweets and desserts, such as mochi, ice cream and cakes. These beans are high in protein, fiber and minerals: one cup delivers 17.3 grams of protein, 16.8 grams of fiber, 64 milligrams of calcium, 120 milligrams of magnesium, 386 milligrams of phosphorus and 1224 milligrams of potassium. However, they are also high in carbohydrates, at 56.97 grams per cup, and these desserts are generally high in sugar, sodium and added fats. They are best eaten as occasional treats if you are watching your weight and health.
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: The Okinawan Diet: Health Implications of a Low-Calorie, Nutrient-Dense, Antioxidant-Rich Dietary Pattern Low in Glycemic Load
- Harvard School of Public Health: Selected Nutrients in Selected Seafood
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Rice, White, Glutinous, Cooked
- Life Extension Foundation For Longer Life: The Little-Known Longevity Factor in the Japanese Diet
- Consumer Reports: Is Miso Good For You?
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Tofu, Fried
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference:
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Beans, Adzuki, Mature Seeds, Cooked, Boiled Without Salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Nutrients List, Legumes and Legume Products