Picture this: you’re sitting in a traditional Japanese teahouse, surrounded by the vibrant colours and flavours of a bountiful feast. You take a bite of grilled salmon, savouring the delicate balance of flavours and textures. As you sip on a cup of green tea, you can feel your body thanking you for nourishing it with the goodness of the Japanese diet. The Japanese people have a long lifespan and are known for their low rates of chronic diseases, including fatty liver. Fatty liver is a condition in which there is an excessive buildup of fat in the liver, which can lead to inflammation and scarring of the liver. The Japanese diet has been shown to be effective in preventing and treating fatty liver. Let’s take a look at what is the Japanese diet and how it can help protect your liver and overall health.
What is the Japanese diet and its benefits?
The Japanese diet is a way of eating that has been linked to good health outcomes and longevity. “At its core, it emphasizes balance, mindful eating and a focus on whole foods and seasonal produce. By following these principles, the Japanese diet has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of many chronic diseases, including fatty liver disease,” says Shalini Arvind, Chief Dietician, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru.
One of the key components of the Japanese diet is the emphasis on whole, plant-based foods. Arvind explains that vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes are staples in this way of eating, providing ample fiber, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients that can help prevent inflammation and oxidative damage to the liver. Fish and seafood also feature prominently, providing a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory and heart-protective effects.
The nutrition expert further explains that another unique feature of the Japanese diet is the concept of hara hachi bu, which means “eat until 80 percent full“. It basically helps reduce calorie intake and lead to weight loss. This practice of mindful eating helps to avoid overeating and the potential weight gain and digestive discomfort that can result. “In fact, despite consuming a diet that is relatively high in carbohydrates, the Japanese have one of the lowest rates of obesity in the world,” says Arvind.
How does the Japanese diet help with fatty liver?
When it comes to fatty liver disease, the Japanese diet has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk. Arvind explains that by limiting intake of red meat, processed foods, and sugar, and focusing on whole, plant-based foods, the Japanese diet provides the liver with the necessary nutrients to function optimally and prevent damage.
According to a recent study published in the MDPI Journal, the Japanese diet is rich in complex carbohydrates, such as rice and noodles, which have a low glycemic index. This means that they are digested slowly, causing a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. This helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, which can reduce the risk of fatty liver.
This cross-sectional study investigated the association between dietary patterns, skeletal muscle mass, and liver fibrosis severity in Japanese patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The study found that the Japanese diet pattern was associated with the severity of liver fibrosis in Japanese patients with NAFLD. The study revealed that consuming more soybeans and soybean foods, fish and shellfish, and seaweeds as part of the Japanese diet was linked to a decreased likelihood of advanced fibrosis.
What does the Japanese diet include?
The Japanese diet is a plant-based, whole-foods diet that emphasizes balance, variety, and moderation. Here are some of the foods and food groups that are typically included in the Japanese diet:
1. Vegetables: The Japanese diet places a strong emphasis on vegetables, which are often eaten raw, pickled, or lightly cooked. Some of the most common vegetables include daikon radish, eggplant, green beans, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms.
2. Fruits: Fruits are also a regular part of the Japanese diet, with seasonal fruits such as persimmons, strawberries, peaches, and grapes being enjoyed in moderation.
3. Whole grains: The Japanese diet includes a variety of whole grains such as rice, barley, soba noodles, and millet. These grains are often served as a side dish or as a base for a stir-fry or noodle dish.
4. Seafood: Fish and seafood are an important part of the Japanese diet, with a focus on small, fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, and salmon. Seafood is often consumed grilled, boiled, or in soups and stews.
5. Legumes: Legumes such as soybeans, tofu, and edamame are a common source of protein in the Japanese diet. These foods are often consumed as a side dish or incorporated into soups and stews.
6. Fermented foods: Fermented foods such as miso, soy sauce, and natto are staples in the Japanese diet and provide beneficial bacteria for gut health.
7. Green tea: Green tea is a traditional beverage in Japan and is often consumed throughout the day. It is known to be a rich source of antioxidants which can offer many health benefits.
8. Snacks: Traditional Japanese snacks such as rice crackers, dried seaweed, and mochi (sweet glutinous rice cakes) are often consumed in moderation.