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Japanese Diet and Health in Japan

The Japanese enjoy the best health, a low rate of obesity and the greatest longevity in the world due to their diet nutrition and eating habits. A comparison of obesity prevalence in Japan vs. America, as a percentage of the population: obesity level in Japan 2.9 percent (males), 3.3 percent (females); obesity level in America 27.7 percent (males), 34.0 percent (females).

Japanese Diet Habits

  • The Japanese eat just over 30 percent of their food calories in the form of fat. Most of this dietary fat is polyunsaturated. This compares with 40-55 percent in most European countries.

  • The Japanese diet includes about 55 percent of calories as carbohydrates, mostly higher-fiber wholegrains or lower-GI carbs. About 15-20 percent of calories are consumed in the form of protein.

  • The Japanese typically eat three meals a day. A typical breakfast is rice with a soy-based soup like Miso with ingredients like seaweed and vegetables, and a little grilled fish. A typical lunch is rice with a combination of chicken and vegetables cooked in broth, with eggs. A typical dinner is rice with grilled fish and meat, with boiled greens and miso soup.

  • Compared to Americans, the average Japanese eats much more fish (average 3.5oz per day) and soy protein and much less red meat.

  • The staple food of the Japanese diet is rice. For example, a basic meal might include steamed rice, a soy-based soup like Miso, with side dishes of (eg) fish/seafood, vegetables, seaweed, chicken, and noodles.

  • The Japanese are traditional consumers of sea vegetables like seaweed. As much as 25 percent of all food dishes in the Japanese diet contain some variety of seaweed.

  • The Japanese have the highest flavonoid intake in the world, (65g per day, versus 13g per day in America). Flavonoids, a type of phytochemical, are plant compounds with powerful antioxidant properties. They are found in large quantities in soy foods, legumes (beans) and to a lesser extent in tea, onions, and certain fruits such as cranberries. Nutritionists believe that this high consumption of antioxidant foods may account for the low rates of diet-related diseases in Japan, like cancer.

Obesity in Japan

Compared to America and most European countries, the Japanese have a significantly lower rate of obesity (3-4 percent). As a result, rates of weight-related illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are much lower, although rising. However, as the diet of the Japanese population changes, so too does their weight profile.

Japanese Diet and Weight-Related Health

Although the traditional Japanese diet is very healthy, Japanese eating habits are changing. Among young people in particular, there is a higher intake of dietary fats, greater consumption of Western foods, and a move away from traditional staple foods like rice, seaweed and fish. In addition, lifestyle changes are leading to lower levels of nutrition, fewer \"family meals\" and less exercise. These factors are already causing an increase in levels of overweight, as well as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia (high blood fats).

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