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Japanese Food: Healthy Option?

Japanese FoodMy first introduction to Japanese cuisine was when I turned sixteen. My dad had a business relationship with the owner of a Japanese restaurant a few miles from our house. So, when I wanted to start working to make some money, he got me a job there as a waitress. As a waitress, I had the opportunity to see what ingredients were used, how the food was prepared and was fortunate enough to try a multitude of dishes. Over the 5 years I worked there, I gained a great appreciation and love for Japanese food, especially sushi and sashimi.

Is Japanese food healthy?
Japanese food in the United States is fairly healthy, if you choose wisely. After all, the typical Japanese diet relies heavily on rice, vegetables (including seaweed) and fish (with little red meat). That is why the country itself is endowed with so many people who are living past 100 years old. In fact, they have the highest percentage of centenarians in the world. So, they must be doing something right with their diet.

However, even though most Japanese food is bursting with both flavor and health benefits, it can also be high in sodium. Sodium is really the main drawback of Japanese food. That is due to the sodium in the sauces and pickled foods that are used in many of their dishes. If you are on a strict low sodium diet, Japanese cuisine may be one you might want to avoid. It may just be too high in salt. If you do want to eat Japanese food even with such a restriction, you’re going to have to be a lot more careful which dishes you choose.

Here are a five tips to consider the next time you find yourself at a Japanese restaurant:

  1. Avoid deep fried foods: Deep fried foods, such as tempura, tend to be greasy and far from healthy.
  2. Ask for brown rice: Brown rice has a higher fiber content and is more nutritious than white rice.
  3. Reduce your sodium intake: When possible, ask for lower sodium miso soup, lower sodium teriyaki sauce and try to use low sodium soy sauce, if available, when eating sushi and/or sashimi. Or avoid soy sauce altogether. For most dishes, you really don’t need it and it can even cover up the wonderful flavor of the food.
  4. Stick to sushi or sashimi for your main meal: Those are much better alternatives to the fried dishes or sukiyaki (a stew that is cooked in beef fat and served with a raw egg).
  5. Ask for steamed or broiled vegetables: These are much healthier than the deep fried vegetables that are also popular at Japanese restaurants.

The bottom line:
You can find lots of wonderful vegetables and fish dishes at Japanese restaurants, packed with nutritional benefits. You just need to know what to order. If you at least stay away from dishes that are deep fried and high in sodium, you will go a long way towards ending up with much tastier, healthier dishes. And if you put in just a little more effort, you can end up with some very healthy choices, indeed!

Comments (5)

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  1. Ben says:

    Most typically Japanese foods are quite healthy compared to common foods in America like a double cheese burger. The life expectancy in Japan is 82 years.

  2. Isabel van Sunder says:

    You always have to check what you eat in order to eat a healthy diet.

  3. Lang says:

    Japan is such a unique culture. Their cuisine is very different and much healthier that the typical America foods. One of Japan’s loved foods is sushi and it’s a very common food.

  4. Thomas says:

    Although I don’t know much about Japanese food, this article was very informative. Japanese foods are much rather healthier than American foods.

  5. Jason says:

    I travel to Japan a lot. I have noticed over the years that although things can get a little salty, I always feel much better and actually lose weight when I spend a few weeks there. I do have problems with water retention and am on blood pressure pills, but after hanging out there, both of these problems get better too. I don’t really try to avoid anything as far as salt or calorie intake like I do when I am here in the States, as I see my Japan trips as a vacation. But I still improve a great deal. Even my Doctor says that whatever I am doing, keep on doing it. Strange, I know. You would think that with a condition like mine, the extra sodium would do a number on me, but it doesn’t. I am lucky, I guess. Or a little weird. Anyway, great article!

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