Japanese Health Secrets You Can Adopt Today For a Healthier Lifestyle

Here’s why the average life expectancy in Japan is 84 years.

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UPDATE: This article was updated and revised with new information on July 1, 2019.

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Dr. Oz crossed international borders to bring you the secrets of health and longevity practiced in some of the world’s healthiest countries. First up: Japan, where people are known to have an average life expectancy of 84 years, compared to the United States which is 79 years old. What are some Japanese health secrets that Americans can adopt? These eight Japanese truths could be the answer.

In Okinawa, Japan, men and women boast the highest life expectancy in the world. In fact, the Southern prefecture of Okinawa has the highest concentration of people 100 years or older. So what is it about the Japanese lifestyle that exudes so many health benefits? Here are a few ways that food and tradition come into play to create balance. How many of these tips can you add to your everyday routine?

Food

Natto: Natto is a sticky paste made by adding healthy bacteria to lightly cooked soybeans and fermenting. It’s a powerful food rich in the enzyme nattokinase, which may reduce the risk of blood clots and may prevent the build-up of the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

In Japan, people routinely enjoy natto for breakfast, served on top of rice with an egg split over it. You can find it at health food stories, Asian markets, or online.

Matcha green tea: Matcha has taken off as a trend in the United States, but this super-charged green tea has always been a mainstay in Japan. Matcha is a powder that offers all the powers of green tea, but in a more concentrated form. According to Spoon University, one cup of matcha tea is equivalent to the antioxidants found in three cups of green tea. In Japan, Matcha is consumed several times daily and served to guests regularly. The ritual of enjoying tea and offering it to visitors in your home provides another healthy benefit: a time out during the day to relax and enjoy something that is good for you.

Pick up some matcha at your local health food store, add one teaspoon to a cup of hot water, stir and make time to share it with friends and family daily. Since it’s sweeter than regular green tea, you might even convert tea skeptics.

Seaweed: Seaweed is packed with a range of minerals, as well as loads of B vitamins. It’s also hailed for its supposed anti-wrinkle properties and is often found in high-end anti-wrinkle creams. You can find a variety of seaweed options at Asian markets. Add nutrients and instant flavor by serving it in a broth-based soup, munch on it as a snack, or sprinkle some into a smoothie.

Ikigai: You can’t buy this secret in a health food store, but you can practice it at home. Ikigai means “that which gives life a sense of purpose,” and in Japan, it often takes the form of caring for another life, such as gardening. By taking the attention off yourself and your problems and turning it to the well being of another life form — from a pet to a petunia — you let go of the worries inside you and find satisfaction in helping others. Take time to figure out what activities are important to you and then make them a priority. If nothing comes to mind, stop by a local nursery and pick up a small Bonsai plant. It will feel good to learn how to prune and care for it and see your attention bring it to blossom.

Japanese Secrets to Staying Fit

Eating a diverse, healthy diet filled with vegetables and fresh fish and low in carbs and fats is integral to their success. Consider these healthy habits when prepping your next at-home meal.

Sipping soup: In Japan, a broth-based soup is eaten at almost every meal. Packed with nutrients, it helps you feel fuller and consume fewer calories. Try enjoying a bowl of miso soup at every meal. You can find easy recipes online or pick up packets of instant miso soup at your local health food store or Asian market.

Portion distortion: In the U.S., we like to pile our food on big plates and feel like we have a plentiful meal ahead of us. In Japan, the opposite is true. Japanese people serve each different item on a different plate, and arrange it in a way that makes eating fun, instead of having everything smashed onto one plate. When you move slowly from dish to dish, you naturally eat more mindfully.

Relishing rice: In Japan, plain rice (no salt or butter) accompanies most every meal. They prefer short-grain white rice. Even better is brown rice, a whole-grain rich and good-for-you fiber. So try adding a small bowl of brown rice to meals and see how it helps you feel fuller and eat less.

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