One Soup Three Dishes: Lessons From Japan’s Formula for Healthy Eating
Here’s a fun fact for you – the obesity rate in Japan is the lowest in the industrialized world at only 3.6 percent.
This is largely attributed to the health consciousness of the Japanese. Everyone, young and old, seems to be adhering to a healthy diet. But that’s not all, Japanese food plays a big role as well. It is considered among the healthiest cuisines worldwide.
Japan has a formula for healthy eating and its variables are one soup and three dishes. This does not include rice, which is a staple, but most Japanese meals are truly made of only these variables.
For the Japanese, this formula is enough to get anybody physically ready for the demands of the day.
Rice is a wonderful source of energy. Miso soup, which is also a staple, provides protein and essential minerals for good health. Fish – either sashimi or grilled – or meat is another reliable source of protein. Pickled vegetables or fresh vegetables on the side, meanwhile, provide vitamins and probiotics.
Simple but carefully prepared
The Japanese do not like to complicate their meals. By having the formula of one soup and three dishes, it is easy enough to choose what to cook for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is important to note, however, that careful attention is given to the components of the Japanese food equation.
First of all, everything is served in just the right portions. This is why everything is served in a small bowl or plate.
Secondly, the food has to be colorful.
The Japanese, like the French, eat with their eyes. These days, Japanese people do not only use fresh and colorful ingredients, they have taken visually pleasing meals to a higher level. They create art with the ingredients. This is evident in the popularity of bento meals, particularly those prepared for young children.
And thirdly, the dishes should always complement each other to ensure a satisfying or nutritious meal. For example, a traditional Japanese breakfast usually combines rice and natto or sticky fermented soybeans.
According to food journalist Chieko Mukasa, most Japanese people eat natto with rice because while rice is a great source of carbohydrates and it is filling, it does not contain essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce. Natto, on the other hand, has these amino acids and other nutrients to boost health.
Focused on natural flavors
Another thing you will notice about a traditional Japanese meal is how every dish is never heavily seasoned. If you wish to add a new layer of flavor to the food, you will be given a dipping sauce.
For the Japanese, food should only be lightly seasoned so you can taste the original flavors of the ingredients. They want food to taste as it should. This increases their appreciation for the ingredients.
Along with this, doing without heavy seasoning manages to preserve the nutritional value of the ingredients. For example, with sashimi – no nutrient is lost in the preparation process because it is not cooked. It’s practically the same thing with raw egg, which Japanese people like to eat with steamed white rice.
Worth mentioning as well is how focusing on natural flavors prompts meticulous attention on ingredient quality. The Japanese make sure that as simple as the usual spread is, the dishes are optimally nutritious and beneficial to the health because of the high quality of the ingredients used.
Uses seasonal ingredients
One of the sub-variables behind Japanese healthy eating is making use of seasonal ingredients. According to Japanese chefs, taking advantage of what’s in season allows them to diversify classic dishes. Along with this, they are able to maintain or enhance the nutritional value of the meals.
Seasonal ingredients tend to possess higher amounts of vitamins and minerals because they have reached their full growth potential.
Simple yet nutritious and satisfying to the palate, this is the hallmark of traditional Japanese cuisine. No wonder the Japanese are not only generally slim and fit as a people but they have the longest life expectancy as well.