Those of us who care for our health and wellness, definitely have a point of view about food, from weight loss diets to organic vegetables, from protein supplements to juicing, from paleo diets to vegetarianism.
Food has always been related to health, but what used to be a “healthy diet” has changed over and over during the decades. In the mid 20th century, “have your bacon and beef every day” was the healthy choice. Nowadays, fat is almost a curse word, except that some swear by its consumption. Carbohydrates have shifted from being a side dish, to becoming the ideal sportsman’s fuel … or quite the opposite, an unwanted side effect of agricultural society and sedentarism. Meat consumption is now linked to causing unnecessary cruelty to other living beings, and on the other end it is praised as the staple food that home sapiens have evolved to consume.
Regardless of which scientific theory, diet guru or personal taste you have, you can surely find plenty of options in Tokyo, and this website is the authoritative source that will help you find them.
Japan has long been highly regarded for a different, healthier diet than westerners are not used to. No wonder some of the world’s eldest people live here. Their diet consisting of rice, soy, vegetables and some fish, has been studied in detail. But beyond this traditional diet, the country has a wide variety of exquisite local dishes. And furthermore, large urban centers now offer every imaginable food style from abroad, from fast food to gourmet cuisine.
With high educational and cultural level, Tokyo is a place where you can start or continue with any diet. On one side of the spectrum, the fruitarian diet mainly consists of fruits, nuts and seeds. Vegan diet followers can find delicious vegetables and fruit, usually not found in Europe or America, such as kyoko, kaki, mikan, daiko, maitake or nagaimo. Lovers of the vegetarian diet can rest assured that their food choice will be well represented in vegetarian supermarkets and restaurants.
If your diet includes animal protein, such as a pescetarian diet, you are in paradise! Japanese fish is world famous, including salmon, tuna, yellowtail, shrimp, eel, crab and many others. But what is most original is the preparation itself: sushi, nigiri and sashimi should not be left untasted. Many people claim that eating only fish meat is one of the healthiest dietary practices. Some macrobiotic diets also include them.
The paleo diet has been receiving attention in recent years, proposing meat as central element in the diet. The underlying concept is that our food habits have developed over millions of years, specializing in digesting meat from our early scavenger-hunter days. Paleo diet theory demotes most vegetables, especially grain. Agriculture has only been practiced for 10,000 years and our bodies, they claim, have not yet adapted to them, causing avoidable diseases.
Certain diets are followed for medical reasons, like the gluten free diet, which is mandatory for people suffering celiac disease. Wheat and grain derivate products are so commonly utilized in so many recipes and packaged foods, that celiac people have to be extra careful. Organic juice is one healthy gluten free option. The ketogenic diet, with high fat, moderate protein and low carbs, is prescribed for children suffering epilepsy. It has been discovered that making the brain function on ketone bodies (a metabolite of fat) instead of glucose (its natural fuel), greatly reduces seizures.
Religion is also a decisive factor when choosing food. Jewish people who care about the kashrut, follow a kosher diet, which among several principles, prescribes some animals not to be eaten, and remaining ones to be slaughtered according to specific practices. The halal diet also has a set of mandatory rules for meat and dairy, but based on Muslim law. This website guides you in your kosher and halal food selection in Japan.
Health benefits of food should not minimize the role of beverages. From the moment we wake up until late night, juices, tea and coffee are our companions. Fruit and vegetable juicing provides fresh vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates to fuel our day. Cold pressed juice in one of the latest trend in juicing.
There is something about tea that made the Japanese create one of the most interesting ceremonies. With so many varieties with different health benefits, tea is consumed by millions. And coffee is the top export product worldwide (even above oil!) thanks to its widespread use. However, caffeine contained in coffee, usually associated with increasing alertness levels, has raised health concerns, giving rise to decaf coffee. For the rest of consumers, dozens of grain types with flavors ranging from mild to heavy can be tasted at home or in hundreds of cafeterias in Tokyo.
Although alcohol is considered by many dietitians as “empty calories”, several other medical studies have shown health benefits in the tannin from grapes in wine. And the art of wine-making has evolved to biodynamic wine or bio wine, where organic farming principles are applied, leaving out chemical fertilizers to become more ecologically sound and sustainable. Finally, from the Pharaoh’s times, when beer has been discovered to be produced, to present day, where microbreweries flourish in every city, beer has always been a popular choice within alcoholic beverages.
The word “diet” today still has a meaning that relates to “weight loss”. Although there are diets for different health conditions and even weight gain, hundreds of weight loss diets have sprung in every corner, prophetized by doctors and self proclaimed diet gurus. Among some of the most known diets of this kind are the Atkins diet, the LCHF diet and several forms of vegetarian diets. The Atkins diet proposes a higher protein and fat content within foods, and low carbohydrate levels. The underlying theory is that the body will get used to burning fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel, and consequently excess body fat will be reduced faster. The LCHF (low carb, high fat) diet basically states the same. Only vegetables that can be obtained from above the ground (as opposed to starchy ones like potatoes) are recommended.
Though we are speaking about food, it would be naive to consider changing food habits as the only way to reduce the waist line. Weight loss exercise is fundamental in an integral, long lasting solution.
With every day advances in nutritional science, food supplements have received widespread adoption. Vitamin and mineral supplements have been prescribed for decades (especially during pregnancy and early years), as the role of micro-nutrients in health and wellness has been thoroughly studied. Protein supplements have been made popular by weightlifters and bodybuilders, but moderate consumption among sports enthusiasts has increased exponentially. Usually derived from milk or egg, these supplements consist of the the protein content of these foods, in powder form, usually without the fat content. Sports nutrition specialists claim this protein form is the quickest that can be absorbed and metabolized.
Superfoods are now very popular, for their alleged health benefits. Examples of superfoods are blueberries (high content of antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese). Antioxidants prevent formation of free radicals, which cause cell damage. Other superfoods are acai berries and pomegranate juice. The flavonoid content of cocoa, with an impact on lowering blood pressure, and the omega-3 fatty acid rich salmon, preventing heart problems, also make it to this list. Similarly, functional foods have specific properties that have been identified as precursors of some health benefit. For example oatmeal for its fiber content or dairy products with added probiotic microorganisms.
Our overwhelming fast paced life, sometimes calls for a moment to stop, think and why not, detox our bodies. Several body cleansing diets and supplements exist, seeking to restore the body’s natural balance, expel toxins and start afresh.
Back in the day, meat, fruit and vegetables were produced without artificial inputs, such as fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and genetic engineering practices that have sprung out of economical efficiency. Proponents of organic food choose meat, fruit and vegetables that have been obtained through natural processes, without artificial additions or industrial methods. Artificial ingredients in the production process are deemed to produce diseases and medical conditions. Some companies in Japan search and offer assortments of organic food with unified branding, or in organic restaurants.
HealthyTokyo.com offers you a wealth of information about healthy eating, with a focus on Japan.