Japan and the Mediterranean regions are both widely known for having populations that are both leaner, live longer and have less disease than most other places in the world. Amazingly, both populations have demonstrated reduced risks of obesity by an average of 25 percent, stroke by an average of 25 percent, cancer by an average of 31 percent, and Parkinson’s disease by an average of 48 percent.
This has intrigued scientists, doctors and nutritionists alike to study these two cultural diets – each so seemingly different when it comes to ingredients, preparation and flavor – to discover what possible commonalities they may share. These commonalities may hold the key to uncovering how both the Japanese diet and the Mediterranean diet may have independently come to tap into some universal secrets of superior health, weight management, energy and vitality.
5 Ways the Mediterranean & Japanese Diets Both Promote Leaner Bodies, Longer Life & Better Health
1. Fruits & Veggies
Both the Mediterranean and Japanese diets have a high emphasis on eating whole vegetables and fruits, featuring unprocessed plant foods as the central focus of their cultural dishes. Both diets recommend 6 servings of whole fruits and veggies daily. Colorful vegetables and fruits are rich in fiber, antioxidants, various minerals and vitamins, and diets high in these plant foods have been linked to weight loss, improved heart health, strengthened immunity, and lowered risks for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bowel disease and cancer.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes veggies and fruits like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and olives, while the Japanese diet emphasizes veggies like cabbage, seaweed and avocado. Both diets also promote cruciferous vegetables, which contain compounds that have been linked to lowered rates of cancer.
Check out these 8 Weight Loss Recipes that will Make You Love Cabbage
2. Legumes, Nuts & Seeds
Both the Mediterranean and Japanese diets include several weekly servings of foods that are rich in plant-based fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, with the Mediterranean diet recommending 3-4 servings weekly of foods like chickpeas, lentils, beans, walnuts, almonds, etc., and the Japanese diet recommending 5 – 6 servings of foods like soy beans, tofu, sesame seeds, mung beans, sprouts, etc.
These foods are high in fiber, iron, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to lower cholesterol, balanced blood sugar, and lowered risks for obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
This hearty Minestrone Soup is bursting with Mediterranean legumes and veggies
3. Fish & Seafood
Another defining feature of both the Mediterranean and Japanese diets is the prominence of wild sea foods. The Mediterranean diet promotes 5 servings weekly of sea foods like wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, sea bass, prawns and mussels, while the Japanese diet promotes 7 servings weekly of sea foods like tuna, salmon, trout, shrimp, carp, squid and sea weeds.
These sea foods are high in protein, omega-3s, zinc, iodine and fat-soluble vitamins like A and D, which are known for improving brain function and lowering risks of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
Try these 5 Simple Salmon Dinners
4. Red Meat
Both diets de-emphasize the consumption of red meats. The Mediterranean diet limits the consumption of red meat to 4 servings monthly, while the traditional Japanese diet limits it to 1 serving monthly.
High consumption of red meat has been linked to increased risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity and cancer.
Both the traditional Mediterranean and Japanese diets highlight whole grains, which are featured in almost every meal. Whole grains contain complex carbohydrates and fiber that help prevent blood sugar spikes and keep one’s appetite, digestion and hormones more balanced.
Traditional Mediterranean grains include barley, buckwheat, bulgur, farro, millet, oats, polenta, wheatberries, couscous and pastas, while traditional Japanese dishes include rice or rice-based, buckwheat-based or wheat-based noodles.
Check out this Healthy Pad Thai Noodle Bowl.