The Top 10 Healthy Japanese Foods You Need To Eat Now
Eating healthier doesn’t just mean swapping your Friday night pizza for a salad. It’s about making long term changes to your everyday meals and understanding what you’re eating and why it’s good for you. After all, the saying goes “you are what you eat”. So we’ve turned to the Japanese diet for inspiration to help you on your healthy-eating journey to discovering new and delicious foods without feeling guilty!
The Japanese are known to live longer than almost anywhere else in the world and researchers have put it down to their diet. The traditional Japanese diet incorporates foods rich in sea minerals and nutrients, including fibre, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Find out which foods make up the Japanese diet and what makes them so good for our bodies. They can reduce the risk of heart disease, increase thyroid function and are full of antioxidants and good bacteria. The effects of a healthy and well-balanced diet are endless.
Here are our top 10 Japanese ingredients you need in your diet for a healthier and longer life!
Tofu is packed with protein and low in calories, so it’s the perfect substitute for meat if you’re vegetarian or want to reduce your intake. The superfood contains all nine essential amino acids. Made from soy-beans, it’s a valuable plant source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese and phosphorus. In addition to this, it also contains magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1.
Tofu comes in all shapes and textures and can be served in a variety of ways. From super-soft silken tofu, perfect for miso soups or big cubes lightly battered and swimming in a pool of Agedashi broth. Tofu is a blank slate for soaking up marinades or adding to noodles and rice. Using the Global G-80 fluted Santoku knife you can slice all kinds of textures into the size of your choice.
Japan is famous for its love of seaweed. The mineral and nutrient-rich sea vegetable are known to give Japanese food it’s quintessential flavouring. Boost your intake of vitamins and minerals that aren’t often found in foods on land and add this versatile ingredient to your diet. A little goes a long way, so why not try sprinkling dried seaweed on your food to add taste, texture and flavour to your meal.
There are many varieties of seaweed, here are three that are commonly used in Japan:
Nori – We love munching on dried nori sheets as a healthy snack or using them to make temaki rolls or ‘hand-rolled sushi’. For an easy and fun way to wrap your favourite fillings, try skipping the rice for a low-carb version and use veggies like avocado, cucumber, carrots and sprouts. The Tamahagane San Tsubame 17.5cm Santoku Knife is a versatile tool for chopping vegetables and slicing through the slipperiest of seaweeds.
Wakame – Loaded with minerals such as iodine, manganese, folate, magnesium and calcium, wakame is great in Japanese soups like miso soup or slicing into julienne strips for a seaweed salad.
Kombu – If your soups are tasting a little bland lately, then maybe you need to add kombu. An edible type of kelp and the main ingredient in making ‘dashi’ broth. Dashi is known to form the foundation for many of Japan’s popular dishes like ramen.
Most people outside Japan aren’t accustomed to this slimy, smelly, sticky fermented soybean dish most commonly eaten for breakfast. Whether you love it or hate it, Natto is full of protein and vitamin K2 which helps to prevent osteoporosis, vitamin B6, folate and pantothenic acid, as well as antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds.
Find Natto at your local Asian supermarket or order it online. The most common way to prepare and eat Natto is with a little bit of soy sauce, chopped green onions and freshly cooked rice.
Miso or fermented soya bean paste is a popular Japanese staple. We doubt there isn’t a kitchen in Japan that doesn’t have a tub of their favourite miso paste ready to cook with. Commonly used to make soups and broths or for enriching sauces with umami richness.
There’s nothing quite like a comforting bowl of miso soup with wakame and tofu, not only does it taste delicious but it’s full of helpful bacteria, enzymes, antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamins.
High in protein, miso is known to lower cholesterol, boost the immune system and improve digestion. So start your next meal with a bowl of miso soup and see how you feel!
I know what you’re thinking… Oily? Healthy? Yes, that’s right! The oils found in particular species of fish known as ‘blue-backed’ fish are full of beneficial compounds such as DHA and EPA, these are unsaturated fats or “good fats” are great for your skin and hair. The oils help to lower cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease. Fish oil is also considered to help support brain development.
The island nation’s diet is dependent on a high intake of omega-3 rich oily seafood such as “Iwashi” (sardines) “Saba” (mackerels) “Aji” (horse mackerels) “Sanma” (saury).
One of the easiest and healthiest ways to eat fish is to have it raw. Sashimi is sliced raw fish and Japan is known for their love of this fresh and healthy way of preparing food.
Fish is high in protein and omega–3 fats, which is linked to lowering blood pressure, improving brain function and aiding heart health. Eating sashimi is a tasty way to enjoy fish without the added calories of frying or marinating in heavy sauces. It’s just as easy to make at home using the Kasumi VG-10 PRO 13cm Santoku Knife to achieve those perfectly thin slices.
Your beautiful slices of sashimi can be eaten lightly dipped in soy sauce with wasabi or ginger, both nutritious additions to the meal.
Less popular than ramen and udon, but just as tasty, Soba is a type of noodle made from buckwheat flour and requires years of training to make. Soba is higher in protein, fibre, complex carbohydrates, thiamine and Vitamin B1 and B2 compared to other kinds of noodles.
Soba is also known to contain “rutin” which reduces high blood pressure and is anti-ageing.
This super noodle is widely available in your local Asian supermarket or health food store and can be eaten in a variety of ways, hot or cold. We like to dress our soba with a variety of healthy veggie toppings using the Masahiro MV-H Masahiro Santoku Knife 18cm which is well suited to vegetable chopping and dicing, or keep it simple, cold and dipped in Tsuyu (dipping sauce).
Eating soba noodles never gets boring, and will make a versatile addition to your kitchen!
Whether it’s brown or white, Japanese rice is central to overall health and a well-balanced diet. Rice serves as a low-fat carbohydrate, keeping you full and providing energy to keep your body running throughout the day.
In fact, Japanese rice is full of nutrition, including vegetable protein, dietary fibre, calcium and vitamins. Rice is extremely versatile, tasty and cheap, so it’s no wonder that it’s eaten almost every day in Japan. There’s nothing quite like freshly cooked rice to accompany your meal.
Matcha green tea has gained significant popularity outside Japan. From matcha lattes to matcha desserts, this stunningly green powder is not only healthier than regular green tea but an important part of ceremonial tea culture in Japan.
Matcha contains high amounts of antioxidant and catechin which are known to prevent cancer, arthritis, high cholesterol and heart disease. It also contains higher levels of caffeine, so skip that cup of coffee and try matcha instead!
Lastly, no meal in Japan is complete without ‘tsukemono’ or Japanese pickles, made from fruit or vegetables such as radish, cabbage, and cucumber using a salt or vinegar brine.
These vibrant, sweet and vinegary pickles are both incredibly delicious and a great source of probiotics and vitamin B. Just like most fermented foods, tsukemono is full of enzymes that help to improve digestion, stomach and kidney health.
You can buy tsukemono or try making your own at home!