The traditional Japanese diet is linked to an array of health benefits.
Rich in nutrients and beneficial compounds
The traditional Japanese diet is naturally rich in various nutrients, including fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and E (4).
Vegetables contribute to the nutrient density of this diet and are often cooked in dashi, a dried fish and sea vegetable based stock. This reduces their volume and enhances their flavor, making it easier to eat large amounts (5).
The diet also offers good amounts of seaweed and green tea. Both are great sources of antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that protect your body against cellular damage and disease (4, 6, 7).
What’s more, the many fish- and seaweed-based dishes included in this diet provide long-chain omega-3 fats, which promote brain, eye, and heart health (8).
May improve your digestion
Seaweed, soybeans, fruits, and vegetables are naturally rich in fiber, a nutrient that aids your digestion.
Insoluble fiber moves food through your gut and adds bulk to stool, reducing your risk of constipation (9).
These foods also boast soluble fiber, which feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut and helps reduce the space available for harmful bacteria to multiply (10, 11, 12).
When gut bacteria feed on soluble fiber, they produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which may reduce inflammation and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis (9, 13, 14).
Read more 3000 Calorie diet and meal plan
Moreover, the pickled fruits and vegetables commonly eaten on this diet are a great source of probiotics. These beneficial bacteria promote gut health and reduce digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea (15, 16, 17).
May promote a healthy weight
The traditional Japanese diet is rich in vegetables, has small portion sizes, and is naturally low in added sugar and fat. These factors all contribute to a low calorie count (18).
In addition, Japanese culture encourages eating until only 80% full. This practice deters overeating and may contribute to the calorie deficit needed to lose weight (19, 20, 21, 22).
Furthermore, research shows that the fiber-rich vegetables, soy foods, and soups typical of the traditional Japanese diet may help reduce appetite and boost fullness, thus promoting weight control (23, 24, 25).
Evidence also suggests that alternating between dishes, as is common during traditional Japanese meals, may reduce the total amount of food eaten per meal (26).
May protect against chronic diseases
The traditional Japanese diet may safeguard against conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
It’s naturally rich in fish, seaweed, green tea, soy, fruits, and vegetables but low in added sugar, fat, and animal protein — all factors believed to protect against heart disease (27, 28, 29, 30, 31).
In fact, Japanese people’s risk of heart disease remains unexpectedly low despite their high salt intake, which typically raises heart disease risk (28).
What’s more, in a 6-week study in 33 men following the traditional Japanese diet, 91% experienced significant reductions in risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including excess weight and high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (32, 33).
Read more 12 Tips for Avoiding Added Sugar On A Plant-Based Vegan Diet
Plus, the high green tea intake encouraged on this diet may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and certain types of cancer (34, 35, 36, 37).
May help you live longer
Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectancies, which many experts attribute to the traditional Japanese diet (38, 39, 40, 41).
In fact, the Japanese island of Okinawa is considered a Blue Zone, which is a region with extremely high longevity. Keep in mind that the Okinawa diet focuses heavily on sweet potatoes and features less rice and fish than the traditional Japanese diet.
In a 15-year study in over 75,000 Japanese people, those who closely followed the traditional Japanese diet experienced up to a 15% lower risk of premature death compared with those eating a Westernized diet (3).
Experts link this increased lifespan to the traditional Japanese diet’s emphasis on whole, minimally processed foods, as well as its low added fat and sugar content (1).