Rank Japanese food at the top of your list—this cuisine easily fits within a healthy lifestyle.
What's for dinner? You might receive great cheers when you answer miso soup, sushi, oden, soba noodles, and edamame. Japanese cuisine is one of the favorite Asian fares. For all the right reasons.
Japan's history is rich with influences into its unique cuisine. Buddhism, one of the major religions in Japan, bans eating meat (other than fish). So from the very beginning, Japanese cuisine focused on fish, fruits, and vegetables. China introduced rice into the Japanese diet. The Dutch brought in corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. And the Portuguese taught the Japanese to use a batter to fry vegetables (tempura).
Variety and Moderation
Take a look at Japanese dishes, and you'll find a variety of rich colors. Dishes often contain lots of different fruits and vegetables, providing rich vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are also lower in calories and fat.
"Research suggests that people with more food in front of them tend to eat more, whether it's served to them on plates or they serve themselves from a container," says WebMD.
And Japanese portion sizes are small to moderate. There's no super-sizing at a Japanese restaurant. A moderate serving of food containing fewer calories and less fat than many other restaurants is helpful to stay within the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board.
Many Japanese dishes combine both variety and moderation, like kinpira gobo, cucumber sunomono, and okra aemono.
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Since meat is rarely consumed in Japan, for religious reasons, the Japanese turned to fish and tofu to provide much-needed protein in their diets. While it's recommended for those in the U.S. to consume fish at least twice a week, those in Japan consume fish on a more regular basis.
"Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids," according to Heart.org. Omega-3 fatty acids provide many health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and triglycerides (fats in the body), lessen the chance of heart disease, and promote mental health in pregnancy.
Be sure to try Japanese dishes that contain fish—sushi, sashimi, buri daikon, and misozuke salmon.
Rice and Whole Grains
Carbohydrates are vital in the daily diet as they provide the most easily processed energy that your body uses to digest other foods. Those in the U.S., unfortunately, have only found recently that too many carbohydrates can lead to weight gain and even diabetes.
Japanese cuisine takes a healthy approach with carbohydrates. Rice and whole grains accompany many of the traditional Japanese dishes. And you don't need to worry about gluten, as all forms of rice (white, brown, wild) are naturally gluten-free.
The main cooking methods within Japanese cooking include simmering in liquid, cooking on direct heat, or steaming. Oftentimes, broth is used when simmering fish and vegetables. Direct heating and steaming food are both healthy cooking methods that better preserve the natural nutrients in the food and can add a great deal of flavor. The Japanese also batter fry vegetables, called tempura. While batter frying isn't on the list of healthy choices, tempura is a lighter batter than many other batters used in the U.S.
Now that your mouth is watering, grab a friend and head on over to your favorite Japanese restaurant for dinner. Or be creative as you attempt a Japanese dinner in your own kitchen.
What's your favorite Japanese cuisine? Share in the comments.