Can Adopting Japanese Eating Habits Help Lengthen Lifespans?
My grandpa – a faithful husband, father of four, and skilled auto mechanic – lived to be 79 years old. He believed in hard work, solitude, education, walking, and spending time with nature. He was also sustained by a great and profound love of Christ, and when he was troubled, I know he turned his thoughts to “the powers that be.”
Now that he’s gone, I can see his beliefs helped him stay away from the muddle and confusion many of us often feel. He didn’t, for instance, try to keep up with the Joneses; nor did he gossip, behave maliciously, or bother to stay current with trends. He told the truth and gave help whenever it was needed.
I tell you all of this because I believe a simple life helps give way to health and longevity. I think Grandpa lived as long as he did because he not only took care of his body, but also his mind.
The Japanese Diet
In this vein, the people of Japan seem to have their own secrets with regard to staying healthy. The World Bank Group has stated that Japanese people have the longest lifespans in the world; men and women live, on average, to be 78 and 85 years old, respectively. These figures are 10 to 12 percent longer than the average lifespan of one living in the United States.
Most health experts agree that diet is the greatest contributor to Japanese longevity. Fish, which lowers the risk of heart attacks, is a common staple in most meals, while red meat is significantly more expensive and less frequently consumed. Other staples include tofu and soy products (both of which lower cholesterol) and low-fat rice.
Natto, or sticky fermented soya beans, are often served on boiled rice for breakfast. While the taste is questionable, Takao Suzuki of the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology heralds it as "the Japanese woman’s best friend." He believes the contribution of protein and oestrogen received from the soy is responsible for the statistically longer lifespan, fewer hip fractions, lessened menopause symptoms and overall healthier senior years when compared with the average western woman.
Similarly, Japanese noodles made from wheat flour or buckwheat flour aid healthy digestion. These ingredients are significantly healthier than enriched white flour, which is nothing more than refined carbohydrates that can contribute to obesity. According to a study referenced by Natural News, Americans eat enough extra calories from mostly refined carbs to add three pounds of body fat per month to their weight.
Also, unlike popular American eating traditions, the Japanese diet does not center on delicacies eaten solely for taste. Most dishes are instead consumed for their health benefits. Small portions of healthful, yet filling meals help them avoid overeating and fatty, high cholesterol, and junk/fast foods.
Green tea is another contributor to longevity. In fact, in a recent 13 year study study following green tea consumption, researchers found a clear and significant delay in incidences of cancer and death among the most avid green tea drinkers.
An Active Lifestyle
But diet is only one factor of Japanese longevity. The country is geared toward an active lifestyle that centers on three key aspects: work, socializing, and recreation. The average adult in Japan will walk an average of between 1 and 3 miles each day as they walk to and from the train station on their way to work and home.
Can these habits be incorporated into American daily life? Yes, absolutely. My grandpa, after all, lived simply with healthy eating habits and a fondness for walking. If you embrace a new way of living you might also embrace a healthier way of living.