Healthy “Live-Longer” Habits From Japanese Women

June 15th, 2012By Category: Food & Dining

Obesity has been increasingly cited as a major health issue in recent decades. While many industrialized countries have experienced similar increases, obesity rates in the US are among the highest in the world.

Though this problem is spreading widely as years go by, there are still health-conscious groups and even individuals who promote healthy living and healthy eating. Women in particular, are conscious about their weight and figure. Those who are concerned with their health, should pick up some healthy habits from Asia, particularly from Japanese women.

It was said that Japanese women have proven to have the highest life expectancy in the world. Their secret? Aside from major leaps in terms of cancer, stroke and heart disease treatments, their longevity can be attributed to a healthy diet, minimal obesity and the ability to manage stress.

First, healthy food. What do Japanese women eat? The ingredients simmering in a Japanese kitchen are a simple variety of foods eaten on a consistent and daily basis. Their menu consists of fish, sea vegetables like seaweed, soy, rice, fruit and green tea. Seaweed contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, iodine, vitamin C, fiber, beta-carotene, and more. The Japanese like tuna, mackerel and salmon, all of which contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that’s good for the heart and helps reduce the risk of breast cancer. Green tea, according to studies, prevents heart disease. Research says that people who drink six cups of tea a day have a 36 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those who drinks one cup per day. Green tea has antioxidants, and is even said to help prevent osteoporosis.

The Japanese enjoy eating home cooked meals daily. They grill their fish, simmer their veggies and have sliced fruits for dessert. They also always go for what is fresh and what’s in season to assure that what they put in their tummies are healthy. Also, sweet desserts are eaten less often in Japan and in much smaller portions compared with the US and other countries. Most importantly, they have a different mind-set about food. While some are more concerned with dieting and weight issues, the Japanese are encouraged to enjoy a more diverse variety of food without diet concerns.



We know now what they usually eat, but what else do they do on the table? Japanese take their time to eat. Word of advice? Eat slower. In other parts of the world, and for some people, every meal is like a contest whereas here in Japan, they savor every bite, eating with their chopsticks in a slow pace. According to science, it takes 20 minutes for the brain to recognize fullness so if you keep a slow pace and take your time to taste if it really is sushi you’re eating, you’ll be more likely to eat until you’re satisfied rather than until you’re full. Plus, bloating? not really pleasant.

Japanese men and women use bowls and small plates. When you use smaller dinnerware instead of large bowls, platters and plate, it’s easier to practice getting smaller amount of food.

Finally, the Japanese practice physical and mental fitness. Think martial arts and meditation. Yoga can help reduce stress, as it wards off dementia, while meditation preserves areas of the brain that are associated with memory and concentration. Exercise is part of the Japanese daily ritual. They are active people who incorporate lots of incidental exercise everyday. Also, they have created an environment for physical activities like biking around town, walking and hiking to stay healthy and active.

So there we have it: fish, green tea and yoga–it’s all about knowing what you eat and living a healthy lifestyle. As the saying goes, health is wealth. Let’s all be rich by keeping our bodies healthy.

Photos by: abnehmen123williamchoburntfeatherGeoff Peters 604GoToVan and mhealing

Author of this article


GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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  • Emiko Katsumata says:

    I am afraid both of the above commentators have a limited view of Japanese food. Women in Japan, single or with families still cook. And when they do, they don’t just gulp down bowls full of white rice but will eat with a good balance of fish, meat, beans and vegetables. You cannot omit rice from the Japanese diet. But its balanced out with the ingredients mentioned above. It’s something the westerners have a hard time comprehending. As the article says, the approach to food is different here. I believe people still eat healthy in this country especially women and if they are working they try to bring their lunches from home which will consist of, again, the ingredients that all quite beneficial to one’s body. Once in a while we all eat oily deep fried food like kara age and tempura but i dont think that’s their staple food.
    I agree that when it comes to bread, the Japanese only know white bread that’s fluffy and seems under baked. But then the Japanese are not bread eaters, traditionally. So it may be frustrating for non-Japanese people to find food that they are used to and end up with so called japanese food that suits their palatte which can be unhealthy food. Deep fried food is after all, tasty!
    I hope you discover more of proper Japanese cuisine.

  • Ashley says:

    I agree with zoomingjapan, I don’t think typical diets here in Japan are all that healthy anymore. Not that they can’ be and I also think it’s a generalization to say it’s that way for ALL families and all women. I mean the amount of white rice/white bread, etc. alone is definitely not healthy. Let’s not forget mercury in tuna.

    As for exercise, I’m going to suggest that people often walk or bike more in Japan than perhaps in some countries (like the US). The fact that many people are more active in Japan in this way I think might play a larger role in regards to obesity rates, along with diet (but as we all know, has changed a lot).

    That said, I’ve known too many girls and women who are overly concerned about their appearance, which leads to yo-yo dieting, taking on diet fads, eating disorders, etc. Aiming to be healthy is one thing, but unfortunately sometimes it becomes all about how one looks and not how they feel.

  • zoomingjapan says:

    I don’t consider Japanese food as healthy! Maybe the traditional food, yes, but all the conbini food and snacks are not healthy at all! Far too much sugar! All the fried food (e.g. tempura) is also not very healthy. Maybe it can still be considered as healthy compared to America (I wouldn’t know) but compared to my home country Japanese food is less healthy.
    I also started to gain weight after moving to Japan.
    If you stick to the traditional Japanese diet, though, I can totally see why it’s helthy.

    As for stress management I wonder if it’s also their mentality.
    When something happens, instead of freaking out and stressing over it, they usually stay rather calm with their “shou ga nai” (しょうがない, can’t be helped) – attitude.


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