Japanese food in general and sushi in particular has grown exponentially in the last decade around the world. Japanese restaurants have established themselves as one of the main gastronomic options and proof of this is the increase in places that offer this type of food.
However, there is some confusion about what the Japanese diet gives us and if it is especially healthy. In this article I will try to clear up the main doubts.
First of all, I want to clarify that in Japan not only sushi is eaten and that sushi as we understand it here is not common there either. The fact that part of the Japanese population is one of the oldest in the world, should not be associated with this type of food . To know the reason for their life expectancy, we should take into account genetics, environment, emotional well-being, rhythm of life, night’s rest, physical activity and diet.
Main benefits of the Japanese diet
Food in small portions.
Food divided into small portions makes it easier for us to be satisfied before and above all, that we can stop eating when we feel full, since we will not have a full plate of food in front of us. Also, it can help people who tend to eat in a rush to eat slowly.
Eating with chopsticks is a way to eat more slowly, especially if we are not used to them.
Eating slowly will facilitate the digestion of food, increase the feeling of fullness and can help us eat less.
Spicy is bactericidal.
Eating raw foods such as fish always carries a risk of food poisoning. Luckily in Japan it is consumed together with wasabi , a spicy sauce with a bactericidal effect that helps the stomach to kill possible bacteria in food.
You eat more fish than meat.
Including sushi in our diet will favor the consumption of fish in our diet . Fish consumption is falling in our country, where the protein contribution comes mainly from meat. Fish from the Japanese diet will provide us with protein, iron, vitamin B12 and healthy fats such as omega 3.
The presentation of the dishes helps us to nourish visual hunger or, as it is more commonly understood, we enjoy eating through our eyes.
One of the maxims of psychonutrition , a discipline that we deal with in our Nutrition Center, is that of nourishing different types of hunger . Visual hunger is one of the most powerful and thrives on the sight of beautiful and elaborate dishes. Undoubtedly, this is known to the Japanese, who know how to attract our visual attention.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory, which can help to relieve the symptoms of inflammatory diseases as well as to recover after sports practice.
Use of vegetable proteins such as tofu.
The Japanese diet was one of the first to introduce tofu in the West and thanks to this we have incorporated this source of vegetable protein into our diet. Eating tofu is a way to acquire proteins of high biological value without having to resort to meat.
Disadvantages of the Japanese diet
They add sugar in the kitchen: to rice to make sushi, to egg to make omelet.
The consumption of sugar is one of the main problems of our diet, many people are unaware of the amount of sugar they consume in food and to prepare it like sushi. In general, Japanese dishes usually include sugar in their ingredients.
Soy sauce contains a high amount of sodium.
As you may have read on other occasions, the consumption of salt we do is higher than that recommended by health organizations. An important source of sodium is soy sauce, which is often added to all Japanese food preparations.
Algae contain a lot of iodine.
This is another point that generates a lot of confusion and is that contrary to what many people believe, the consumption of algae is not healthy or advisable. The algae provide very high amounts of iodine. Consuming too much iodine is dangerous as it can cause thyroid problems. My advice is to avoid its consumption.
Consume protein foods such as raw fish or eggs without cooking.
Consuming raw protein foods such as fish or eggs is worse than consuming them cooked for 2 main reasons: First, it puts food safety at risk even if the hygiene and food handling legislation is followed. Second, the assimilation of proteins by the body also decreases since cooking serves as a digestion prior to consumption that facilitates the stomach’s work.
Use of fried foods in the form of tempura.
Japanese cuisine is not synonymous with steam, wok and iron. They also make highly caloric preparations and generate harmful substances, such as fried foods that they call tempura.
Many typical dishes have pork as an ingredient.
One of the criticisms that Spanish cuisine has on a nutritional level is its high use of pork. Well, in Japan they also love the consumption of this type of meat. Japanese pork-based dishes are usually high in fat, as well as a source of cholesterol.
Here is this article by Antonio Ortí published in the magazine Objective wellbeing , where I collaborate with other nutrition professionals such as Ignacio Jáuregui, Pilar Riobó and Julio Basulto. In it we explain the nutritional properties of the basic ingredients of Japanese cuisine.