Putting the latest Japan earthquake and tsunami aside, Japanese people still have the longest life expectancy in the world. The life expectancy for Japanese men is 78 years old and the life expectancy for Japanese woman is 85 on average.
These statistics are quite reassuring to know, especially if you live in Japan.
So how do they do it? Do they have a fountain of youth hidden in some mysterious location? What secrets are the Japanese hiding from the rest of the world?
Well, a big secret is in their diet and their lifestyle!
Let’s first look at the regular Japanese diet
1) More fish and less meat
Big Macs do make you big. Fast foods are full of saturated fats and calories which contribute to the obesity epidemic in western societies. As a nation, we consume way too much red meat for our body to handle.
Meat is so expensive in Japan. So fish is considered to be the meat for a source of protein. The rich source of omega 3 oils are said to bring out the natural beauty in their skin and improve complexion. One reason why Japanese women look so youthful and have such smooth skin.
2) Cooking Methods
Apart from the common tempura, most Japanese cooking is grilled, baked, poached, or steamed compared with western cooking where it is either cooked with large amounts of oil or fried / pan fried.
3) Green Tea
We drink coffee, the Japanese drink green tea. Green tea is packed with antioxidants and helps to break up oil in the digestive system. Normally green tea is taken by itself. Coffee or English tea on the other hand is taken with 2 – 3 tablespoons of sugar and a generous serving of full cream milk.
4) Soy foods
Almost every Japanese meal will consist of some type of soy product whether it be tofu, soy milk, soy sauce etc. It has become apart of their staple diet. Soy products are very healthy. It helps reduce heart disease and high blood pressure and are a great source of protein.
Soy milk as a replacement for high fat dairy (cheese, full cream milk) is great because it provides the body with the adequate calcium and protein without the saturated fat and cholesterol .
5) More Wheat and less starches and white flour
In western society, nearly every meal consist of some sort of bread. Either refined white bread, brown bread and the list goes on. These are refined carbohydrates which increases the risk of obesity.
The Japanese diet on the other hand is mainly Japanese noodles which are made from wheat flour or buckwheat flour and a small bowl of rice.
6) Smaller portions per meal
They have more meals, but less portions per meal. A regular Japanese meal is about half the regular portion of western dishes. Now it doesn’t necessarily mean they eat less throughout the day, they are inclined to just having breakfast lunch and dinner. Japanese have 5 – 6 small meals.
What about the Japanese lifestyle?
1) Exercise Without even doing any extra curricular activities, they are already exercising and burning calories daily. Commuting to work for an average Japanese is exercise itself. An average Japanese walks an average of 5 kilometers per day going to work and back home.
The journey normally consist of walking from home to the train station (1 – 2km), standing on the train for ½ hour to 1 hour (impossible to find seat on train) and from the train station to work (1-2km). Then the same thing again traveling back home after work.
2) Fast Pace
If you’ve ever been to Japan, especially major cities, you’ll understand what I mean by fast pace. I was totally blown away at how fast they do things. The pace of walking, the pace of working, and the pace of entertainment and socializing. They seem to find the right balance with work and play.
With the limited home space, people tend to find their entertainment outside. It’s hard to find a “couch potato” in Japan. People go out to have fun to meet for gatherings.
Cars is a necessity in Australia. Not so in Japan, the public transport is so well developed that having a car is for luxury and status.
The other day, I drove my car down to the nearest convenient store which was only 150 metres away. I don’t feel guilty for doing it, but it just means I may end up contributing to the obesity epidemic and lower life expectancy of Australia.
All said and done, I love my meat and I don’t think I will ever stop consuming it. I can probably cope with the Green Tea and Tofu. But meat will still remain the staple of my diet.
But if I want to live longer, I better start making some changes to my lifestyle, especially my diet. My daily 4 cups of coffee and usually fatty doughnut tea breaks may need to be changed to green tea and rice crackers. The question is, live longer or enjoy my food and life? Lets hope my parents passed down some good genes.
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