The World's Healthiest Diets
Week Two: Japan
It's no surprise that the obesity rate in Japan is less than 4 percent: The country's traditional diet has long been touted as one of the healthiest in the world. "People who live in the Okinawa region of Japan, specifically, are four to five times more likely than Americans to live to 100," Dr. Miller says.
Start with soup. Miso soup is part of most meals, including breakfast. "Broth-based soup can help you feel full longer and regulate your calorie intake for the day," says Rebecca Scritchfield, RD, a nutrition counselor in Washington, D.C. A study of more than 5,000 people found that women who ate soup five to six times a week were more likely to have healthy BMIs than those who sipped it less frequently. Sure enough, I was less hungry during the day when I started every meal -- even breakfast -- with a bowl of miso. Can't get down with soup in the morning? Start lunch or dinner with a bowl (just steer clear of creamy kinds, which can be high in fat and calories).
Brighten up your plate. There's a proverb in Japan that says, "Not dressing up the meal with color is like sending someone out of the house without clothes." The Japanese try to incorporate five hues -- red, blue-green, yellow, white, and black -- into every meal, says Lalita Kaul, PhD, RD, the author of Healthy Heart South Asian Diet. Adding different shades to your plate (Skittles don't count!) means you'll take in more low-cal, high-fiber fruits and veggies. When I incorporated a rainbow of produce into my diet -- plums and peaches for a snack, tomatoes and lettuce on turkey sandwiches, berries atop low-fat pudding -- I found that all the fiber kept me full longer.
Stop while you're ahead. Unlike me (I can still hear my mom saying, "We don't waste food!"), Japanese people don't belong to the clean-plate club. In Okinawa, there's a popular saying, "Hara hachi bu," which means "Eat until you're 80 percent full."
"This helps explain why most Okinawans maintain a stable weight between ages 20 and 100, while the average American gains a pound a year after 30," Dr. Miller says. Putting this approach into practice is easier said than done. But this advice from Scritchfield helped: "Serve yourself only half as much as you normally would. Then wait five minutes once you've finished to determine if you still need more food."
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