Japan – one of the gems of Asia has long been associated with bowls of flavorful ramen, delightfully crunchy katsu and tempura being fried in street shops, zesty fresh sushi, and sashimi made from the best catches of the day, scrumptious takoyaki balls that burst in your mouth with the intense flavor of octopus, wagyu beef slathered with butter and garlic grilled to perfection.
Apart from all that heavy cuisine, Japan has also been known to originate some of the healthiest ingredients over the ages – food that has made the locals gain an extended lifetime like very few other countries. On that note, let’s talk about some healthy Japanese food delicacies that will tingle your taste buds without adding to the waistline.
Vegans should we very well acquainted with this healthy Japanese food. Tofu acts like the perfect substitute for the fattier proteins like pork, beef, or chicken. Not only is it loaded up on proteins, but it’s also wonderfully low on calories. It definitely is a healthier choice.
On its own, it’s a superfood with multiple health benefits and extremely versatile.
Tofu is a cult favorite amongst the Japanese. When you first look at tofu, it’s not the most interesting ingredient in the world. You might taste it and even go, “These are way too bland!”; but guess what? That’s the best thing about them.
They easily absorb any flavor, so you could customize the tofu you eat according to your taste. Cube it up and put them on some salad, fry them with rice, or use it as an accompaniment in soups and ramens to increase the nutritional content.
If you’re into world cuisine and have a knack for trying out various food, you must have heard about miso soup at least once. It’s one of the most prominent and popular uses of miso – a simple fermented bean paste.
Don’t let the simple description fool you; it’s packed with essential nutrients like antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, good bacteria, and protein. It’s also low in cholesterol, improves digestion, as well as help boost immunity.
Miso has a lot of variations across the different regions, like Sendai miso, or Shinshu miso. Miso soup is quite filling due to the high protein content, but blissfully low in calories. The strong umami taste of miso is really hard to beat, and sitting on top of some iceberg lettuce, or made into soup, the ingredient is going to leave a strong impression anyway you consume it.
There are two kinds of people in the world – one loves sushi and sashimi, and the other that considers it an abomination. Either way, people who have had the authentic, delicate taste of these dishes swear by it, and it should be easy to see why.
Sashimi is simply finely sliced raw meat, like beef, fish, or chicken. Yes, for someone who just heard this, it could be rather disturbing knowing that people relish meat raw.
Fish sashimi is filled with omega-3 fats and vital nutrients. Omega-3 is known for aiding in heart health, boosting memory, and keeping your blood pressure under control.
Wasabi or soy sauce is usually served on the side with sashimi, and wasabi is another nicely healthy ingredient that decreases heart disease and cancer risks. Sashimi is a great alternative to grilling or frying. This dish really captures the freshness of the fishes used while keeping all the focus on the star of the dish.
It’s interesting how people have found a way to consume even the most unexpected elements deliciously. Seaweed is a popular ingredient in Japan, and is gaining more and more love across the world from food lovers.
Mother Nature gave Japan an abundance of sea resources, which is why they came up with sashimi, and also seaweed. It can be eaten in two ways – dry or fresh. The fresh ones are usually used in ramen, broths, salads, and miso soups, while the dry ones can be seen being used to wrap sushi or onigiri, plus for rice balls.
Locals also enjoy fried seaweed much like the western world enjoys chips. Seaweed is rich in minerals and fibers – some nutrients that can be harder to acquire from other food. The fat content is also negligible. This is another sign that you should definitely try keep seaweed under your radar when looking for healthy Japanese food.
5. Soba Noodles
The Japanese consume a lot of ramen and udon, but if you’re looking for the healthiest option, soba noodles are the way to go. They’re usually made of 100% buckwheat flour, which is gluten-free.
Packed with essential nutrients like manganese, thiamin, protein, soluble fibers, minerals, Vitamin B1 & B2, these noodles are going to be your new spaghetti due to its versatility and amazingly low fat content. These also contain a special element called “Rutin” which is effective in fighting aging signs and lowering blood pressure.
Soba noodles could be prepared in multiple ways. People like making it according to their personal taste, so you could get really creative in the kitchen and whip up something that could please your taste buds.
6. Green Tea
The fancy word for green tea is “matcha”. Whereas powdered match is getting increasingly popular throughout the world for making matcha ice cream and mochi (Japanese rice cake made from glutinous rice), green tea has been around for ages for its extraordinary health benefits.
It’s probably the healthiest Japanese drink. Matcha carries high levels of antioxidants and catechin – key ingredients in preventing cancer, heart problems, arthritis, and reducing cholesterol. It’s also beloved for the relaxing sensation it provides.
Green tea has also proven to aid in burning fat, so even if you’ve not been the most sensible when it comes to snacking, green tea is here to be your workout & diet buddy. It has also been a large part of the Japanese culture, where the locals are sure to keep a cup next to them alongside all their other meals.
Another soya bean product makes it to the list of healthy Japanese food. Edamame is fresh soya bean that’s typically eaten in the warm and humid days of summer in Japan. Immature soya bean pods are either steamer or boiled with very little quantities of salt and enjoyed as is.
Sounding sufficiently simple, this ingredient hides multiple benefits inside its green, smooth pods. Edamame is rich in fibers that make you feel fuller throughout the day, thus decreasing the urge for grabbing a bite every other hour. It’s a great source of vitamins A and C.
Not only that, this tiny dish can supply you with a massive serving of proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, phosphorus, iron, potassium, and calcium. Mostly known for being light snacks, edamame can also act as side dishes or appetizers so you don’t overindulge in the next meals.
At first glance, Konnyaku won’t call out to you, but after going through the health benefits, you will surely reconsider. The ingredient is made from Konnyaku potatoes, and has a greyish jelly like texture. It has a distinct chewiness and a memorable taste, one that will keep you wondering why you would like something that looks like that (no seriously, it will happen).
98% of Konnyaku is water, which makes it strikingly deficient in calories. It’s also known to help clean out the intestines once consumed. If you’re on a diet, you could easily substitute this for some jelly (a little umami in taste) and the regular pasta.
On top of that, it’s loaded with minerals and necessary fibers. It’s much more versatile than people give it credit for. It can be skewered, cooked with ramen, put on miso soup, stew, broth, and is excellent for pot dishes.
This one is not as popular as the others on the rundown, but it’s still a significant ingredient in the healthy Japanese food list. This sticky, slimy fermented soya bean dish is close to Hong Kong’s stinky tofu, and usually eaten as a breakfast item. Granted it’s not the best tasting or looking, but it confirms nutrients and goodness in every bite.
Natto is loaded in vitamin B and D, fibers, iron, and proteins, as well as an impressive amount of vitamin K2. Considering the low fat content, Natto can be regarded as a true super food. Once you’ve gotten the hang of eating this, it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be. Maybe reconsider the dislike toward it?
10. Shojin Ryori
For the last one, we are going to include the first full meal – a traditional Japanese Buddhist spread containing everything vegetables. Usually, a shojin ryori will contain the maximum amount of soya-bean based items – like tofu, miso soup (as well as the other soya bean items we’ve mentioned on the list), as well as seaweed products, an assortment of wild plants grown on mountains, and seasonal veggies.
When cooking it, the chef needs to strike the perfect balance between all five flavors – sweet, salty, sour, umami, and bitter. It’s a great way to taste all the different flavors that will excite your taste sensors without having to fret over an exceeding amount of calories, fat, or sodium. It’s an entire platter that contains many healthy Japanese foods that will have you licking your fingers.
Japanese food habits reveal why locals live long and healthy lives. They prefer minimally processed food and a lot of veggies and fish in their diet.
For the health conscious folks, Japanese cuisine is an amazing choice that will allow them to look after their body while not depriving themselves of the wonderful joy of flavors that pop in your mouth and ingredients that are fun to try out.