Turning Japanese: how to adapt the world's best diet
In 2015, food trends were constantly evolving and new diets regularly emerged. The 'what not to eat- style of diet had a strong influence last year with a lot of people turning to gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and paleo-style diets. This will be no different for 2016, but we'll also start to see the emergence of inclusive diets which tell us what to eat to best benefit our bodies. We'll take the lead from other cultures and adapt their diets to fit our Australian lifestyle.
One of these popular food trends is the Japanese diet. Boasting some of the longest-living people in the world, Okinawa in Japan has become the subject of dietary research that could promote health longevity in lives all over the globe. With contribution from world-leading marine scientist John Croft, here are five main elements of the Japanese diet that Australians can incorporate into their meal plans.
One of the most prominent elements of the Japanese diet is rice, otherwise known as gohan. Japanese white rice is low calorie and low fat. White rice doesn't contain harmful fats, cholesterol or sodium, and can reduce obesity and health conditions typically associated with weight issues. Try to include more white rice in your diet to experience the health benefits.
A fruit popular with the Okinawa people is the shikuwasa - a citrus fruit rich in vitamin C. Increased vitamin C can protect against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease and other lifestyle diseases. Alternative citrus fruits to try in your diet include lime, lemon and oranges which can all be found in Australia.
Fish is the protein of choice in Japan, with the average Japanese person consuming up to 70kg of fish per year. The most common types of fish eaten are tuna, trout, salmon and shrimp which all provide essential omega-3. Japanese people also enjoy shellfish, including abalone, clams, sea urchin, oysters and mussels. According to Croft, mussels have many health benefits including being high in vitamins B-12 and C. "For Australians wishing to experience the health benefits of mussels, the green-lipped variety from New Zealand provide natural components such as glycogen and essential fatty acids that help to maintain joint mobility. These mussels have been used to create green-lipped mussel extract, which may help relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis," Croft says. Find this in supplement form in pharmacies and health food stores.
The Japanese diet contains both land and sea vegetables which are low in calories, high in fibre and full of minerals. There can be as many as five different types of vegetables in a Japanese meal at one time, including but not limited to beans, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, white radish and lotus root.
Sea vegetables also have a prominent place in the Japanese diet. According to Croft, one of the most well recognised is nori, the seaweed found in sushi. "Other sea vegetables not as widely known include kombu and wakame, these contain the mineral vanadium which plays a role in the regulation of carbohydrate metabolism and blood sugar levels," he says. Try including more vegetables in your diet, whether it's in a healthy stir-fry or sampling some sea vegetables by eating sushi.
Soy is a common element in Japanese dishes and is used in different forms. Low in calories but high in protein, it is often used as flavouring in the form of soy sauce or as tofu in dishes such as miso soup.
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