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Dublin: -1°C Thursday 15 April 2021

These five elements of the Japanese diet will make you slimmer and live longer

You are 6 times more likely to be obese if you live in Ireland compared to Japan writes Fiona Uyema.

Fiona Uyema

ACCORDING TO STATISTICS published by the OECD in 2014 you are 6 times more likely to be obese if you live in Ireland compared to Japan. After living in Japan for 3 years and experiencing the Japanese way of life I wasn’t surprised to read this.

The traditional Japanese diet called “washoku” is one of the key contributing factors to Japan’s low obesity rate and long life expectancy. Afterall, Japan has the largest number of centenarians worldwide. While living with a Japanese homestay family for 3 months I was completely immersed into the Japanese way of eating and found myself eating rice, miso soup and leftovers from dinner for my breakfast. I was fascinated by the positive impact this change in diet had on my overall health and dress size (without feeling like I was deprived of anything).

Now, I want to share with you the 5 elements of the Japanese diet that I believe can help you become healthier, slimmer and most importantly live longer.

1. Balance

The concept of balance is important at Japanese mealtimes, a selection of dishes from the different food groups are cooked in a variety of ways. Japanese rice and miso soup are the foundation of a Japanese meal with fish, soybeans and seaweed featuring heavily on the menu. Japanese food is simple and tasty with most Japanese dishes cooked gently and seasoned with light sauces. Ireland is the perfect place to find ingredients for Japanese cooking as like Japan we are an island nation and blessed with seaweed, seafood and fish.

2. Way of eating

A Japanese meal is eaten in a communal fashion using chopsticks. This way of eating actually encourages people to eat slowly and appreciate the taste and appearance of the dishes. There is a saying in Japan – Hara hachi bu – which means eat until you are 80% full. Adopting this principle avoids overeating and feeling overfull, as it takes time for food to travel to the stomach and alert the brain that it’s 100% full.
3. Green Tea

There are numerous health benefits associated with green tea including high levels of anti-oxidants. When I first moved to Japan I was surprised to see a better selection of chilled bottled green tea in their vending machines compared to other carbonated soft drinks. I love drinking organic matcha which is a powdered green tea traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies.

4. Breakfast

Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day in Japan. Japanese people often eat rice and miso soup for breakfast along with any leftovers from dinner. Starting the day with a hearty breakfast kick starts the body and prevents any hunger pangs and unplanned snacking before lunch. I find miso soup topped with a poached egg and Japanese seven spice gives me a great start to the day.

5. Desserts

Fruit is often eaten as a dessert at the end of a meal or included as part of a Japanese lunch (bento). Japanese traditional desserts are made from rice and beans and tend to be eaten on special occasions along with green tea. Western influenced desserts are considered a special treat and the portion sizes are much smaller. I noticed that I don’t crave desserts after a Japanese meal as the umami in Japanese cooking makes you feel satisfied.

Fiona Uyema spent three years in Japan, where she learned about Japanese food. In her cookbook ‘Japanese Food Made Easy’ Fiona shares her love of Japanese cooking, known for its health benefits and carefully balanced flavours. Fiona also teaches the basics of Japanese cooking in Miele Gallery Citywest. To contact Fiona directly email fiona.uyema@gmail.com or visit FionaUyema.com

About the author:

Fiona Uyema

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