The Benefits of The Japanese Diet

I have always heard the saying that the Japanese have the oldest population in the entire world. A major reason for this is their diet. “Thanks to the relatively healthier Japanese diet and lifestyle, Japanese women and men live longer and healthier than everyone else on Earth” (WebMD). I do not think that switching to a Japanese diet will work miracles on the longevity of human lives. But I do highly believe that it can improve the quality of life, and decrease the amount of diseases and ailments that can lead to an early death. “The [Japanese] can anticipate an average of 75 years lived healthy and disability-free, the World Health Organization reports” (WebMD). With this knowledge there are aspects of the Japanese diet that we can adopt into our lives.

Eat With Your Eyes

To eat with your eyes means to savor what you eat visually. Japanese food is always presented beautifully and intricately designed. When one is presented with a masterpiece, they take the time to enjoy and savor it. Also, when you are the one preparing and putting the meal on a plate, you tend to appreciate the entire meal as a whole more. This leads to you eating more slowly.

Eating slowly allows for your stomach to register that it is full. When we eat quickly, we tend to not take the time to listen to how our stomachs are feeling and reacting to the food. This is what leads most to overeating. “The Okinawan dinner time mantra is, “hara hachi bu,” means “eat until your 8/10ths full” (Booth). This is a really smart motto to live by when you’re eating. There is no reason to over eat in the United States because most are not worried about the next time one will eat. We do not have a scarcity of food in this country. One should slow down to realize when your hunger is satisfied and not eat to the point of being so full, as if it was Thanksgivings. Next time you make a meal, practice plating and really enjoy your meal for what it is. Take the time to appreciate it.

The Power of Portions

In Japan, several different dishes are prepared for a meal. But everyone takes a small portion of each item. Instead of the single plate, like in the United States, there are several small plates and bowls. I think this is a genius idea. American’s portions on a plate tend to be incorrect with the meat being the largest portion of a meal. With small bowls and plates you can pre-portion a meal out depending on the size of the bowl. Also, an issue we often run into is that we want to fill our plate with our meal. This often leads to a lot of waste. Small bowls and plates can be a great transition from that westernized thinking. Filling your smaller dish with an item will still make you subconsciously feel like your eating a full meal. In actuality, your eating a well balanced meal.

I have begun to adapt this style of eating into my dinners. I take a small bowl and fill it to the brim with a steamed vegetable. I also take a small bowl or plate and fill it ¾ of the way with the entree. It has helped so much to make sure that I am getting the amount of nutrients I need at dinner. It also has helped to make sure I am not eating too many starches or proteins. I do understand it can be difficult when you have more dishes to do, but to hand wash those dishes helps you stay active and not on your butt as much. So, it is a win-win.

Rice Fusion

Most are aware that in Japanese culture, rice is eaten at every single meal. “ A low-fat, complex carbohydrates, rice helps fill you up on fewer calories, leaving less room in your belly for fattening food” (WebMD). When one doesn’t add extra oils or butter to it, it can be nutritious. When you pair it with vegetables or a small portion of meat, you are extremely full. I imagine it like a filler to a meal. When you are still hungry, but you know you have already eaten a serving of protein, you can fill the void of hunger with rice. You then are not snacking after a meal or filling the void with more protein. I personally have a bite of rice with each bite of meat so that I eat a lot less meat but I am still full. It complements most proteins very well.

Substituting with Vegetables and Fish

A Japanese meal can be full of several different vegetables and fish. Both of these items are usually the star entrée in a meal, which is the opposite for our western culture. Vegetables are considered a side and usually only one is served per meal. “As many as four or five different varieties are served in a single meal” (WebMD). I think this is great. It shows how nutrition is important to this culture. Imagine what this could do for your body to have so many different vegetables in at least one meal a day. One way to send this message home with you is to mentally think that the vegetable is the entrée. Our entrée is always the largest portion of a meal. With vegetables in this position, we will naturally make more and eat more of them.

Fish is another aspect of the Japanese culture. “Though Japan accounts for only 2% of the world’s population, its people eat 10% of the world’s fish” (WebMD).  This is extremely impressive and shows how much it is entwined in their diet. “Fish are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their heart-health and mood-boosting benefits.” Replacing red meats with fish is common sense. Red meat screams the American lifestyle but it also leads to a lot of health problems. Fish can be just as delicious and is extremely beneficial.

Work Cited

Booth, Michael. “The Okinawa diet: Could it Help You Live to 100?” The Guardian. (2013):  Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/19/japanese-diet-live-to-100&gt;.

“Diets of The World: The Japanese Diet.” WebMD. (2013): Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/diets-of-world-japanese-diet&gt;.

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Power of Tea

When I was growing up, I was not a tea person. We always had coffee in my house instead of tea. As I have grown, I have begun to develop a taste for it. One of the reasons I have been experimenting with tea is because I was diagnosed with irritable bowl syndrome. I asked my doctor if there was something besides medicine that could help with the pain. Too many painkillers can hurt my stomach more. He suggested I try peppermint tea. I sort of chuckled when he said that, but he was very adamant it would help with the pain. So, of course I tried it. It definitely reminded me of toothpaste, but it wasn’t half bad. It also helped to numb the pain. This inspired me to look into other benefits of tea. I think that the benefits that tea contains are fascinating!

Background:

            Unfortunately, there are no factual records of the discovery of tea, but there are several myths. Beatrice Hohenegger, author of Steeped in History: The Art of Tea, explains the most popular myth of the origin of tea. In 2737 BC China, there was a man named Shen Nong that roamed the wilds in search for plants with medical benefits. While he was sitting under a tree, some leaves fell into his cauldron of boiling water and produced a pleasant smell. He then began to drink it and felt its wonderful soothing properties (Hohenegger). It spread from Asia, to Britain, to here in the US. It is one of the most widely consumed beverages.

Black Tea:

It is produced from the Camellia Sinesis plant. It is the same plant that is used to make all types of tea. The leaves from this plant are withered and they go through a long period of fermentation (“loose”). I recently tried black tea and I must say the flavor was too strong for me. Quite literally, it is not my cup of tea. It is a better substitute than coffee because it is caffeinated, which explains how it helps to improve mental alertness. It is interesting that the caffeine it contains also helps to reduce the risk of Parkinson disease.

  • Benefits from WebMD (WebMD):
    • Most effective for:
      • Tea used to improving mental alertness as well as learning, memory and information processing skills
  • Possibly effective for:
    • Reduces risk of heart attack
      • Also reduces risk of dying from a heart attack after drinking it for a year
    • 8% lower risk of developing kidney stones for women
    • Reduces risk of Parkinson disease
    • Reduce risk of ovarian cancer
    • Reduces risk of hardening of the arties, especially in women

Green Tea:

It is created from the tealeaves from the Camellia plant. They are dried and heated to stop the fermentation. (“Loose”). The tea has a naturally dark green color and has a grassy taste. When I first tried it, I really tasted the grass flavor. I find it the best when it has a little bit of lemon in it. It is extremely refreshing. I just feel better after I have green tea. Some consider it to be a super food because it’s wide variety of benefits.

  • Benefits as stated by WebMD (WebMD):
    • Healthy Cells
      • The antioxidant catechins are contained in green tea. It helps to fight and repair cell damage in the body. However, to consume these antioxidants the tea must be steeped in 160-170 degree water. Otherwise the heat for the water will kill off all of the catechins.
      • Improves blood flow and lowers cholesterol
      • Keeps brain healthy
        • Studies show green tea drinkers have greater activity in working memory areas of the brain
        • Stables blood sugar levels in diabetes patients
        • Some believe that it reduces stress

White Tea:

This tea is made from the tea buds and youngest leaves of the Camellia plant. It is considered the least processed of all the teas since it is only steamed and dried. Since it is the least processed, it contains the most amount of antioxidants. I enjoyed this tea because it was naturally sweet and I tend to add sugar to my tea. It’s also extremely mild compared to other tastes. It is not as earthy as the others.

  • Benefits as stated by Science Daily (Kingston):
    • Anti-Aging capabilities
      • Protects skins natural proteins, especially collagen and elastin
  • Potent capabilities of reducing the risk of cancer, arthritis, and heart problems.

Passion tea:

Blog 5.4This tea has become largely popular because of the coffee house chain Starbucks. It is a tea made from the passionflower and is an herbal tea. Herbal teas are not from the Camellia plant and do not contain as many benefits. However, they are extremely popular and come in many flavors. I find it interesting that herbal teas have become a lot more popular but they do not have any where as many benefits. It feels like some may just be drinking it because they believe it to be just as beneficial. I think it is just a fad that some may be joining. However the only benefit that I found from passion tea was that it lowers anxiety levels (Oz).

I don’t want to give the impression that tea is a magical elixir that will fix all your ailments. Studies show these benefits in large consumptions over a long period of time. However, I feel that these benefits can help people with a lot of health problems and is wonderful for preventative care. It also is a drink with natural flavor and not a lot of sugar. Most drinks today contain added color or sugar that over time can harm our body. If we simply supplement one soda for tea a day, the health benefits would be easy to see. I think tea is so extremely fascinating and that we should try to join most of the world in this craze.

Work Cited

“Loose Tea Basics.” Teavana. (2013): n. page. Web. 4 Oct. 2013. <http://www.teavana.com/tea-info/types-of-tea&gt;.

Hohengger, Beatrice. Steeped in History: the Art of Tea. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA, 2009. 31-30. Print.

“Black Tea: Health Uses and Risks.” WebMd.  Web. 4 Oct. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/black-tea-uses-and-risks&gt;.

Kingston University. “White Tea Could Keep You Healthy And Looking Young.” ScienceDaily, 14 Aug. 2009. Web. 4 Oct. 2013.

Oz, Mehmet. “Health Benefits of Tea.” Dr. Oz Show. (2013): Web. 4 Oct. 2013. <http://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/health-benefits-tea&gt;.

Sacred Cow

Like Christianity, Hinduism is an extremely popular religion in the world, especially the eastern region. I find the Hindu religion to be beautiful and the stories highly educational. However, I want to focus on a specific aspect of the religion, the sacred cow. Most think that Hinduism simply forbids the consumption of beef. It is more than just a dietary prohibition. It is an element that can be seen throughout the entire religion.

The cow has been an economic necessity for over 5,000 years in the Middle East (PBS). The cow can produce milk, butter, curd, urine, dung, and labor for humans. A cow can provide all of these gifts so that a family may sustain off of them. That’s what they are considered, gifts. The cow is seen as a mother for the Hindu faith. It is a provider for it’s people and is kind and nurturing. It also produces milk for them to consume, similar to a human mother. It is also how they make a living. They are able to sell what it produces. They can use the manure and labor to cultivate land so that they may grow and harvest crops. It only makes sense for something so popular in their lives to appear in their religion.

The cow is a sacred animal in the Hindu faith. “The cow is also associated with various deities, notably Shiva (whose steed is Nandi, a bull), Indra (closely associated with Kamadhenu, the wish-granting cow), Krishna (a cowherd in his youth), and goddesses in general (because of the maternal attributes of many of them)” (“Sanctity”). The cow’s milk is even used in ritual practices. It is also extremely good luck to feed a cow a snack before one eats their breakfast.

The cow is also a symbol for the belief of not harming other living things. A cow naturally, is a very calm animal. When one is gentle with a cow, they can be extremely docile. “Subsequently, with the rise of the ideal of ahimsa (“noninjury”), the absence of the desire to harm living creatures, the cow came to symbolize a life of nonviolent generosity. In addition, because her products supplied nourishment, the cow was associated with motherhood and Mother Earth” (“Sanctity”). It is seen as a crime to kill a cow because they are defenseless and they do no harm to humans.  It makes sense how something so precious and sacred in their religion would be given rights to not be harmed. It would be like someone destroyed one’s way of living. I understand now why it is not just being vegetarian for Hindus. It’s the idea of not harming another living creature. It’s their way of projecting the sacred cow’s characteristics on themselves. I find this so enlightening and spiritual. It also is mind numbing to think of the drastic differences of western beliefs of diet and animals compared to Hinduism. I feel it’s a complete opposite in some ways. For Christianity, it is believed that these animals were created for our use and consumption. In Hinduism, it is taught to live in harmony with these creatures. Whether it is one religion or another, it is so inspirational to see how much these beliefs play into what people eat or what they do not eat.

Work Cited

“Sanctity of the cow.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/141206/sanctity-of-the-cow>.

 

“Hinduism’s Sacred Animal.” PBS. (2013): Web. 3 Oct. 2013. <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/holycow/hinduism.html&gt;.