Healthy Japanese Food: What You Need To Know?

The most interesting part of travelling overseas is to eat your way through the country’s unique foods. When it comes to Japan, it is not an exception. What should you expect in the country with the highest average longevity in the world? I believe the answer is more than the oily street foods or pre-prepared meals at convenience store. If you want to find out more about healthy Japanese food then this blog is for you. Follow us, and we’ll assist you with making better, if not the best choice, for your diet in a Japanese style.

1. Facts About Healthy Japanese Foods

In this part, let’s take a look at the list of some iconic Japanese dishes and find out “Is Japanese food healthy as they might seem?”. Keep reading and you will learn some interesting facts about healthy Japanese food and understand the utmost important factor of a healthy diet.

  • Is Sushi Really Good For Health?

Healthy Japanese food

Fish sushi is the most popular type of sushi.

It is such a mistake if you leave sushi out of this list. Sushi has long been a popular food in a Japanese restaurant. In general, Sushi is raw fish served with vinegar-flavored rice. Salmon and tuna is the most two common fish on a sushi menu and they both have many health benefits. So sushi may seem to be good for your health, in fact, sushi nutrition varies greatly depending on its ingredients and preparation methods. Some sushi is deep fried or contains other fatty and salty ingredients, which is not so healthy. Besides, due to its size, sushi is easy to overeat. With 4 to 5 pieces of sushi should satisfy your hunger in a meal time.

is japanese food healthy

Deep-fried sushi, not a very good choice for health.

  • Soup, Noodles And Sauce May Not Be Healthy As They Might Seem

is japanese food healthy

Miso soup

For many dishes which are low in calories and fat like Miso Soups and Udon noodles, you should also pay attention to how much sodium they contain if you want to control your sodium intake. Another famous ingredients that you should be cautious with if you are watching your salt and sugar intake is Teriyaki sauce, made from soy sauce, ginger, garlic, brown sugar and honey. Many foreign tourists become addicted to this sauce because it gives seafood and meet a perfect combination of savory, salty and slightly sweet flavor. But be careful, a spoonful of this magical sauce contains 690 milligrams of sodium (nearly one-third of your recommended daily intake).

healthy japanese food

Udon noodles

  • Fried Food Can Be Acceptable

In Japanese diet, some not-so-healthy menu items turn out to be quite an acceptable choice. For example, Katsu, which means deep-fried meat covered with a crispy crust. Although they are higher in fat and calories than other dishes, they are served in very small, reasonable portion. Bento boxes are also a suitable choice for a quick lunch or dinner. Whether they are healthy or not depends greatly on the combination of food you choose.

healthy japanese food

Katsu is deep-fried meat with a crispy crust.

As we mention above, some foods seem to be good for health still need your careful ingredients check before eating, while the not-so-healthy one seems to be acceptable with a reasonable portion. So the key factor of a healthy Japanese diet lies in ingredients and portion.

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2. Top 8 Healthy Japanese Food

In this section, let’s explore top 8 healthy Japanese food that you must try when come to Japan.

  • Natto

Natto is known as Japanese version of Hong Kong stinky tofu. It is made from fermented soybeans, what makes Natto one of the strangest Japanese dish lies in its slippery texture and a quite pungent smell. It is now one of irreplaceable dishes in Japanese breakfast. If you are looking for healthy Japanese options, it should be on your radar. Although natto is made from soy, the source of many health problems, the fermentation process has removed all the disadvantages of eating raw soybeans. You can be surprised at the health benefits natto brings: weight management, preventing heart problems by lowering the chance of forming blood clots in your vessels, promoting bone health with vitamin K2.

healthy japanese food

Natto, an irreplaceable dish on Japanese diet.

  • Tofu

Tofu has a massive presence in Japan, it is used commonly in a wide variety of dishes. Recently, tofu has gained more popularity because people are more aware of health benefits it brings. Packed with protein and low in calories, it is a perfect substitute for meat like beef, pork, chicken, which are on the fattier side. Tofu is widely used in Japanese diet also because of its simple and flexible methods of preparation. You can put a fresh and soft blank of tofu on top of salad, or deep-fried in a rice dish, or even in soup, tofu can satisfies every taste.

is japanese food healthy

Tofu salad…

is japanese food healthy

…or tofu soup is popular in Japanese diet.

  • Soba Noodles

When mention Soba noodles, Japanese people refer to a type of thin noodles made of buckwheat flour. Recently, Soba has become the most favorite dish of people who are on diet because it is low in card and calories. The main ingredients of Soba noodles is buckwheat which offers many health benefits known as rich in nutrients, restorative and boosting energy. Buckwheat is also gluten-free grain, it is an alternative for anyone who can’t consume wheat. It can be served in noodle soup like Udon or with dipping sauce, but Japanese people prefer to serve Soba noodles cold in salad.

japanese healthy food

Soba noodles have a lot of health benefits.

  • Miso Soup

Another dish is made from fermented soybeans, miso soup is full of beneficial bacteria, enzymes, antioxidants and vitamins. Moreover, miso soup is a low-calorie and low-glycemic food that it is often consumed to start your meal, which helps you avoid overeating during the main course. Using miso soup regularly boosts your immune system, improves memory, promotes digestion system and even brighter skin.

japanese healthy food

Miso soup

  • Sashimi

Sashimi is raw food served with soy sauce. Both seafood and meat (beef, chicken, pork) are types of sashimi, but fish sashimi is the most popular. Consuming raw fish is rich in omega 3, relating to lower blood pressure, improve memory and prevent heart problems. While many other types of sushi contain more calories through cooking process (deep-fried) or fattier ingredients, sashimi is a completely safe choice as it is not likely to contain fried food or fatty ingredients.

health food in japan

Sashimi is a great source of Omega 3 and protein.

  • Yakitori

When hearing “yakitori”, some tourists immediately link with many late nights with too much beer. While the method of cooking yakitori itself can’t be helped (oily barbequed skewers), it doesn’t mean you don’t have a healthier option. The key point is to choose what you want to grill. Instead of beef or pork belly, you can opt for white chicken meat and chicken breast, not as juicy but just as tasty. Besides, understanding customers’ worry, most of yakitoris has now provided vegetarian option (made from ginkgo biloba seeds and other vegetables).

food in japan

Grilled skewers of vegetatbles and various meat

  • Teishoku

This is a traditional Japanese set meal, which includes a main dish (mainly fish), a bowl of rice, miso soup and 1-2 side dishes. This set of meal serves small portion just as enough to satisfy your hunger, but it provides all nutrients from all food groups in one sitting and is varied enough so that you don’t get bored. You can order teishoku at most Japanese restaurants or even purchase it at a convenience store.

japanese food for health

The special characteristic of teishoku lies in small portion of each food group.

  • Salad Boxes At Convenience Stores

Many people have underestimated the value of food in convenience stores, mostly because of the misconception that all pre-prepared food is unhealthy and contains too much chemical. But not until you truly explore the health section, would you be pleasantly surprised. Such convenience stores know the dilemma you are in: everyone wants a healthy but sill time-saving meal, seems like they find solution for your problem now. There is a wide variety of food combination like ham and egg salads, pre-chopped vegetable stick with dipping sauce or grilled chicken paste salad. Believe me and hit up your closest convenience store, I’m sure this will be your favorite place from now on.

japanese healthy food

Convenience salad is becoming more and more popular in modern life.

3. Tips For Dining An A Japanese Restaurant

Japanese people believe that the key factor of being healthy is having a varied and healthy diet. So pay attention to what you are consuming, the ingredients and cooking methods because some foods seem to be healthy turn out not like that. Dining in a Japanese restaurant is tricky since all the food seems to be good for health. Remember to keep your calorie intake in control, don’t overeat it. If you don’t believed in yourself, considering to use soup as a starter to fill up your stomach before enjoying the main course. For any unanswered question, don’t hesitate to refer the chefs. They are always willing to tell you about their dish and even help you to order your food.

Eating healthy in any country is about making smart choice but it also fun to experiment with all the food and flavors. So calories and nutrients won’t always guide your decision, just live your life and enjoy yourself. But next time, if you feel your jeans a little bit tight, just follow our guide. There are plenty of healthy Japanese food out there that you can try and reshape yourself.

About Haruto Suzuki

Haruto Suzuki is a senior food and drinks blogger at Question Japan. He has a background in F&B industry and also experience of running his own Japanese restaurant in Tokyo for over 10 years. Therefore, he has a great knowledge of Japanese cuisine. So if you want to discover Japan through its unique traditional cuisine, Haruto Suzuki’s blog will be a great source of information for you.

One Response

  1. Taylor Anderson says:

    It’s great that miso soup is full of beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and other nutrients. I’ve been trying to eat healthier, so I’ve been researching different ethnic foods. It sounds like Japanese cuisine could be quite delicious and healthy!