Japanese diet plan for weight loss includes typical dishes made from fish and vegetables that are consumed as part of a homogeneous set. These japanese weight loss diet plan meals are foods low in fat and carbohydrates, which aims to be used longer. A diet based on rice dishes, fish and vegetables has been in Japan for many centuries ago, since the time of ancient China, in fact, it was brought to Japan by Buddhist monks.
Many people have started to adopt a healthy lifestyle nowadays. There are many kinds of diets that people can choose from. One of them is the Japanese diet. This diet consists a healthy and natural way of eating food. Let’s find out the benefits of Japanese diet.
Japanese Diet Plan For Weight Loss
According to the food-based dietary guidelines for Japan published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Japan uses a food pyramid with dietary recommendations that places grain-based dishes such as rice, bread, noodles and pasta at the top, followed by vegetable-based dishes.
The next focus is on fish, eggs, and meat dishes, followed by milk and fruit. The pyramid also says to drink plenty of water and tea and to limit highly processed snacks and beverages. Additionally, the Asian diet plan and Japanese meal plan for weight loss place a significant emphasis on controlling portions, which is key to a dieter’s success.
While the FAO guidelines do not list a Japanese meal plan for weight loss, you can use their guiding principles to help develop a weight loss plan that works for you. Some of their beliefs that translate to healthier eating for losing weight include:
- Keeping regular hours for meals
- Focus on staple foods for well-balanced meals
- Eat plenty of grains
- Include a variety of vegetables, fruits, beans and fish in your diet
- Avoid excess salt and fat
- Balance the calories you eat with daily physical activity
What Is the Japanese Diet Plan? All You Need to Know
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The traditional Japanese diet is a whole-foods-based diet rich in fish, seafood, and plant-based foods with minimal amounts of animal protein, added sugars, and fat.
It’s based on traditional Japanese cuisine, also known as “washoku,” which consists of small dishes of simple, fresh, and seasonal ingredients.
This eating pattern is rich in nutrients and may provide numerous health benefits, including improved weight loss, digestion, longevity, and overall health.
This article explains everything you need to know about the traditional Japanese diet.
What is the traditional Japanese diet?
The traditional Japanese diet consists of minimally processed, seasonal foods served in a variety of small dishes.
This style of eating emphasizes dishes’ natural flavors rather than masking them with sauces or seasonings.
The diet is rich in steamed rice, noodles, fish, tofu, natto, seaweed, and fresh, cooked, or pickled fruits and vegetables but low in added sugars and fats. It may also contain some eggs, dairy, or meat, although these typically make up a small part of the diet.
The traditional Japanese diet resembles the Okinawan diet, the historical eating pattern of those living on the Japanese island of Okinawa, but includes significantly more rice and fish.
It contrasts with modern Japanese cuisine, which has strong Western and Chinese influences and includes larger amounts of animal protein and processed foods.
The traditional Japanese diet is rich in minimally processed, fresh, seasonal foods. It contains very small amounts of added sugars, fats, or animal protein and promotes fish, seafood, rice, noodles, seaweed, soy, fruit, and vegetables.
How to follow the traditional Japanese diet
Japanese meals generally consist of a staple food combined with a soup, a main dish, and a few sides.
- Staple food: steamed rice or soba, ramen, or udon noodles
- Soup: typically a miso soup made with seaweed, shellfish, or tofu and vegetables in a fermented soybean stock — though vegetable or noodle soups are other popular options
- Main dish: fish, seafood, tofu, or natto with optional small amounts of meat, poultry, or eggs
- Side dishes: vegetables (raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed, grilled, or pickled), wild plants, seaweed, and raw or pickled fruit
Japanese meals are known for their rich umami flavor, which has been described as the fifth taste — distinct from sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Naturally occurring umami enhances the flavor of vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods in Japanese cuisine (1Trusted Source).
Visual appeal is another important aspect of the traditional Japanese diet. Dishes tend to be eaten in small bites with chopsticks, as this method is believed to create a rich harmony of flavors.
Hot green tea or cold barley tea are the beverages of choice, while alcoholic drinks like beer and sake are typically reserved for dinner. Snacks are uncommon and seldom eaten (3Trusted Source).
Traditional Japanese meals consist of steamed rice or noodles served with a warm soup, a seafood- or soy-based main dish, and a few sides. Naturally occurring umami is used to enhance the flavor of foods.
Potential health benefits of the traditional Japanese diet
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 (4Trusted Source).
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 (5Trusted Source).
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
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 (8Trusted Source).
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 (9Trusted Source).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Evidence also suggests that alternating between dishes, as is common during traditional Japanese meals, may reduce the total amount of food eaten per meal (26Trusted Source).
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.
In fact, Japanese people’s risk of heart disease remains unexpectedly low despite their high salt intake, which typically raises heart disease risk (28Trusted Source).
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.
Plus, the high green tea intake encouraged on this diet may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and certain types of cancer.
May help you live longer
Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectancies, which many experts attribute to the traditional Japanese diet.
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.
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 .
The traditional Japanese diet is rich in nutrients and may aid digestion, weight loss, and longevity. It may also reduce your risk of chronic illnesses.
What is the Traditional Japanese Diet: Get to Know the Fundamentals
The fundamentals of the Japanese diet can be summed up as follows:
- Minimally processed foods with no excess salt, sauces, seasonings, and added flavors;
- Fresh and seasonal ingredients with a local origin and no added preservatives;
- Whole foods that reach the plate in the exact form designed by nature;
- Freshly prepared foods that hadn’t been staying in the fridge for forever;
- Little to zero content of added sugars and extracted fats;
- Low amounts of animal protein, coming mainly from seafood;
- A variety of fermented foods and pickled vegetables;
- Daily intake of green or black tea in healthy amounts;
- Small portion sizes and slow, mindful eating.
Generally, the traditional Japanese diet follows the so-called “soup and three” rule. It means that you can consume one main, protein-rich dish, accompanied by two side dishes (fresh or fermented vegetables) and a bowl of soup. Your meals can also contain small amounts of dairy products, eggs, and meat.
From a broader perspective, the traditional Japanese diet is heavily influenced by the “eat with your eyes” principle. Put shortly, it means taking your time to decorate your plate, make it look special, and experience food as a pleasurable ritual instead of a survival trick to keep you on the go.
How to Follow the Traditional Japanese Diet?
First and foremost – following the Japanese diet is not generally considered a strategy for rapid and momentary weight loss. Instead, it is a lifestyle choice and a general philosophy toward food consumption, where natural, seasonal, and minimally processed foods are preferred in the long term.
When deciding to follow this diet, you will never have to stay hungry or heavily limit the amounts of food you take. You will only have to mind the types of bites on your plate, making sure they follow the general rules described above.
This being said, your typical Japanese feeding round can include:
- A bowl of soup with seaweeds, seafood, fresh or cooked vegetables, noodles, or tofu;
- A main dish: mainly fish, seafood, or natto with occasional small amounts of poultry or eggs;
- Small side dishes: greens, fruits, and vegetables that can be raw, pickled, steamed, or boiled;
- Staple food: rice, noodles, ramen, or another source of carbs that’s preferably boiled and contains no added fats.
- An unsweetened beverage: a cup of hot or cold green tea or another local herbal tea traditional for your country.
You can have three such servings for the day, with mostly no snacks or bites between them.
All of your meals shall be small in size and not consumed in a hurry. As long as you follow the “quality over quantity” principle, you can hardly go wrong – even if you step aside from your Japanese diet plan every now and then.
In addition, you are advised to increase your water intake between meals to at least 8 cups per day. This will help you stay hydrated, flush out the toxins from your body, and reduce any potential bloating.
As a result, you will have the perfect definition of functional nutrition, with no excess calories and no risk of developing any micro- or macronutrient deficiency. And, of course, you will love the results you’ll soon begin to see in the mirror.
Japanese Weight Loss Diet Plan
It’s not essential to switch to an all-things-Japanese eating plan if that will cost you too much time and effort. In fact, the Japanese diet can include many products that are easy to find in the nearest grocery store, and you can adjust them to your preferences.
For example, you can pick and combine the following foods:
- All types of fruits and vegetables, typical for the country you’re currently based in.
- All types of seafood, including fish, mussels, squids, shrimps, seaweeds, and algae.
- Soy foods such as damame, miso, soy sauce, tofu, or tamari.
- Rice or noodles, prepared with no added fats and served with vegetable broth.
- Herbal beverages – mostly green tea and kombucha, but also every other herbal tea you’d like.
Of course, you’re also welcome to add sushi, tempura, udon, miso soup, and all other traditional Japanese bites to your healthy weight-loss plan.
Just keep in mind that all products you buy need to be fresh, seasonal, and properly prepared – with no extra fat, no excess amounts of seasonings, and definitely no large portions.
Foods to Limit or Avoid During the Japanese Diet
As we already mentioned above, the Japanese diet promotes the exclusion of occasional snacks between the three daily meals. This automatically means that foods like popcorn, chips, crackers, packed candies, and biscuits are out of the game.
Except for the very obvious no-no’s, the Japanese diet includes minimum to no amounts of the following groups of foods:
- Processed sugar: sugary drinks, waffles, sweetened cereals, etc.
- White bread and dough foods: hamburgers, pizza, white bread, sandwiches, etc.
- Extracted fats: vegetable and cooking oils, fatty sauces and dressings, etc.
- Dairy products: milk, yogurt, yellow and white cheese, curd, cottage cheese, etc.
- Meats: pork, beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, etc.
You can consume hard-boiled eggs in moderation, and poultry can be occasionally added to the meal plan, but not as an everyday food. Generally, animal protein is substituted with its plant-based alternatives.
Sample Menu When Following the Traditional Japanese Diet
A sample three-day menu, to begin with, can look like this:
Breakfast: seaweed soup, boiled rice, natto, and fresh seasonal salad.
Lunch: noodles in vegetable broth, smoked salmon, a seasonal salad, and steamed vegetables.
Dinner: miso soup, grilled squids, edamame, and pickled vegetables.
Breakfast: ramen soup, boiled rice, and fresh seasonal fruits.
Lunch: grilled tuna, grilled vegetables, and a fresh tomato juice.
Dinner: noppe soup, steamed fish, seaweed salad, and pickled vegetables.
Breakfast: black tea and seasonal fruits
Lunch: sushi, boiled carrots with lemon juice, and pickled ginger.
Dinner: shiitake mushroom soup, vegetable tempura, and steamed vegetables.
Managing your meals can be challenging in the beginning. But once you get used to the fundamentals of the Japanese diet, you will easily substitute ingredients and develop your own menu according to your taste.
Benefits of Japanese Diet
To lose weight is one thing, but to stay healthy and energized while doing so is a different story. The best thing about the traditional diet of the Japanese is that it is not artificially designed to promote weight loss. On the contrary – it is a millennia-old eating habit pattern that is proven to promote good health, balanced weight, and a prolonged lifespan.
Along with saying goodbye to excess fat and high body mass index, the Japanese diet can also improve your general health in the following ways:
1. Promoting Cellular Health
Seaweeds, seafood, leafy greens, and green tea will often be on your table as a part of the Japanese diet. All of them are powerful antioxidants, shown to protect the cells from the effects of free radicals.
As a result, you will suffer less cellular damage in virtually all organs and systems of your body, thus staying fresh, healthy, beautiful, and youthful.
2. Improving Digestion
The Japanese diet is – first of all – very rich in probiotics, coming naturally as a part of the lactic acid fermentation of foods. All pickled products will support your healthy gut microbiome, thus improving your immune response, digestion, and absorption of nutrients.
To further “feed” the good bacteria in your gut, your Japanese meal plan will provide all the needed prebiotics from fibers and wholegrain foods. Ultimately, you will enjoy proper peristalsis, and you will be one step closer to the flat tummy you’ve been dreaming about.
3. Protecting Against Heart Disease
The mere reduction of salt and sugar to the minimum is a good enough step towards good heart health, and it is just the beginning. The Japanese diet actually contains many foods shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases – including fish, seaweeds, green tea, soy, fresh fruits, and seasonal vegetables.
Consuming less processed meats and animal protein is also beneficial for your heart and reduces your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
4. Reducing The Risk of Obesity
Following the principles of the Japanese diet is basically a guarantee for maintaining a balanced weight in the long term. Fresh, raw, seasonal, and whole foods won’t add excess calories to your energy balance, and avoiding processed products is also a game-changer.
This diet can help you reduce the fat in your body without losing muscle – especially when combined with healthy physical activity and easy to perform daily exercises.
And Much More
The traditional Japanese diet is naturally rich in precious nutrients that contribute to reaching and keeping your ideal health. These include calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and the entire vitamin palette found in fresh fruits and vegetables.
As a result, following the Japanese diet as a lifestyle choice is shown to reduce the risk of different chronic and degenerative diseases such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Colorectal cancer
- Autoimmune diseases, etc.
Of course, you can’t consider any diet to be a magical all-in-one solution for every health issue out there. And still – you can think of it as the first and most crucial step towards respecting your body and its needs.