The Japanese diet that could give you a long and healthy life

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Eating more fish, smaller portions, & chewing slowly may be the secret to living longer…

Japanese sushi dinner
This week Japanese Misao Okawa was named the oldest living woman in the world at nearly 115 years old. But she's not the only one to venture past the 100 mark, as Japan boasts over 50,000 living centenarians, including the world's oldest man.

So could the Japanese diet be the secret to living a long life?

'The Japanese diet is the iPod of food,' explained Naomi Aoriyama, author of Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Delicious slimming and anti-ageing secrets. She told Wed MD, 'It concentrates the magnificent energy of food into a compact and pleasurable size.'

The average Japanese person is expected to live between four and six years longer than Americans, but can also expect a healthy and disability-free life, so says the World Health Organisation. They also have the lowest obesity rate of any developed country.

'You might think it's all in our genes,' Moriyama says. 'But when Japanese people adopt a Western-style diet, they put on weight quickly.'

The Japanese diet contains 25% less calories than the average American diet and is based around vegetables, fish and very little red meat.

Eating with your eyes
Aoriyama suggests that eating with your eyes and portion control is important.

'The magic of Japan-style eating is a healthier balance of filling, delicious lower-calorie foods, presented with beautiful portion control in pretty little dishes and plates,' she explains. The result being that people want to savour their food so they eat slower, meaning they get full quicker.

Plenty of fish
Eating a lot of Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines has been food to be good for heart-health. As a result of eating plenty of good fish, the Japanese diet doesn't rely heavily on red meat which is associated with heart disease.

Little plates
The Japanese diet is based around tasting lots of little plates of food. Scientists from the University of Illinois found that people eat up to 45% more food when it's served in bigger helpings.

Rice with everything
Rice is served with nearly every meal, even breakfast. Whilst we try and steer away from carbs, Moriyama says that this low-fat complex carb helps people fill up on fewer calories, meaning they are less likely to turn to processed snacks.

Veggie focused
Japanese diets are packed full of vegetables, with around five different varieties being served with each meal.

Common methods of cooking include simmering in broth, stir-fried in a little oil or steamed – all good for keeping those nutrients in.

Swap it for soy
When eaten in moderation, natural soy products like tofu are found to be a rich source of protein with little or no saturated fat. You never know, switching red meat for a soy based meal could help add on a few extra years!

Natural puddings
Swapping cakes and ice cream for fresh fruit and a cup of green tea also has huge health benefits. When cakes and sweets are eaten, it's in small portions.

Those in the know suggest that this diet combined with the low-stress lifestyle and positive attitude of the people in much of Japan is the key to an increased life span.

If anyone needs us, we'll be having a little rest with a small plate of fish.

Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Delicious slimming and anti-ageing secrets, by Naomi Aoriyama, £6.74,

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