Food

20 Reasons Japanese Women Stay Slim and Don’t Look Old

6. Eating on the go is a big no-no In this day and age, it can be difficult to find the time to sit down and… Simi - February 26, 2017
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6. Eating on the go is a big no-no

In this day and age, it can be difficult to find the time to sit down and eat one meal, let alone three meals every day. Everyone is so stressed and busy it’s almost impossible. But eating on the go is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to healthy eating, and the Japanese people know this. In their culture, it’s considered impolite to eat while you are on the go, whether you’re walking on the street or using public transport. They believe eating is a sacred time to refuel and energize the body, and as such, they devote time to every meal to sit down and focus on food. When we walk or move around, our brains are distracted by doing two (or more) things at once. Because of this, we don’t notice the signals our body sends us that tell us we’re full. Eating mindlessly means we can’t keep track of the food we’ve eaten, which is why we can eat a whole bag of crisps while watching TV, without even realizing it.

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As mentioned before, adopting the practice of mindful eating can aid in weight control and a healthy relationship with food. Think of all the distractions you have around you right now. So many outside influences impact our health, but mindful eating reigns in that lack of control. It also allows us to focus solely on ourselves, for just a few minutes each meal. To eat mindfully, ask yourself these questions: am I tasting each bite? How does my body feel right now? Full, or still hungry? Am I finding joy in this food, or am I regretful? Eating mindfully has even been believed to help psychological food disorders like binge eating and bulimia. Continued attempts at mindful eating will allow you to reconnect with your body’s cues, building a better relationship with yourself. You will also be able to manage your emotions better, as overeating can often come about from stress, depression or anxiety.

7. Healthy Cooking Methods

When food is cooked, a large portion of nutrients can be lost depending on the technique used. The healthiest ways to cook are largely used in Japanese cuisine. Generally, there are four main cooking methods. Agemono is the most prominent way, and is similar to deep-frying but uses healthier batter like tempura. They also have mushimono, which is food prepared by steaming; nimono, boiled food; and yakimono, which is a form of broiling. Steaming food is likely the healthiest option, as it both cooks and seals in flavor, which eliminates the need for any additional fat to be used during preparation. Steaming preserves nutrients better than other methods, and it’s a perfect choice for cooking fish and other seafood because it doesn’t dry out the flesh. Steaming is a quick, easy way to prepare a whole meal from the meat to the vegetables, using either a bamboo steamer or a simple saucepan.

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Broiling is a method of cooking that is often forgotten, though it’s one of the healthiest. Using this method is similar to grilling food in an oven, the only difference being that the heat comes from below when grilling, and from above when broiling. This is a dry-heat method of cooking, so no water or oil is needed. Lean cuts of meat like beef and chicken broil well, especially when marinated first or basted while being cooked to ensure it doesn’t dry out. Vegetables such as bell pepper, zucchini, and onion are also delicious when cooked this way, however, you can generally use this method on most food. Boiling your vegetables may sound boring, but this cooking method is actually full of health benefits. Boiled vegetables are fat-free because they aren’t cooked in anything but water, and adding them to your diet can assist in weight loss. They’re also full of fiber and are easily broken down in the stomach, which can ease pressure on the digestive system. Boiling can also aid in preventing kidney stones. This is because the process removes a large percent of oxalates from foods. They are compounds that play a key role in kidney stone formation.

8. Practicing Martial Arts

In Japan, martial arts are more than just a popular sport, they’re also a way of life and a spiritual practice. Dating back to 23 B.C., martial arts were traditionally performed by samurai warriors due to the restriction on weapons by other members of society. Since then, the arts have developed and grown to become incredibly diverse. Nowadays, we have different training tools, methods, and philosophy across various schools and styles. There are many styles of Japanese martial arts. Some include Aikido, a style of fighting that aims to be peaceful in nature and based on self-defense, with an emphasis on strong holds instead of attack strikes. Next, we have Iaido, a form of sword fighting that began in the 15th century and Judo, one of the most well-known styles and an Olympic sport. Next up is Sumo, another popular sport that is perhaps most known for its extraordinarily large participants; and Karate, also known as ‘the way of the empty hand’, which focuses primarily on straight-forward punching and kicking techniques.

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Martial arts hold many health benefits. It’s a high-aerobic, total body workout that uses every muscle in the body. It improves stamina, flexibility, endurance, and strength, and is a great way to improve cardiovascular health. Martial arts can provide important self-defense skills, improve reflexes and aid in weight loss. It also teaches focus, morals, and values, and can enhance your mood through the release of endorphins. Practicing martial arts can teach you self-confidence and self-respect, as well as discipline and respect for others. It’s also a great way to connect deeply with the mind and body. Martial arts is more than just kicking and punching the air, it’s an activity that taps into the senses as you are taught to see, feel and listen while you move.

9. Hot Spring Baths

Natural hot springs, also known as onsen, are hugely popular in Japan and can be found in every region. There are various types of hot springs, distinguishable by the minerals dissolved in the water, with each mineral providing a different health benefit. Hot springs are believed to have a relaxing effect on the body and the mind. They can be outdoors or indoors, mixed gender or separate. Hot springs may be publicly accessible or belong to a ryokan, which is a Japanese style hotel. Balneology is the study of the science behind the therapeutic effects of naturally occurring hot springs. It is a popular choice for routine medical care in Japan and Europe. Indigenous tribes of North America believe hot springs are ‘power spots’ in nature. They’ve used them for healing, purification ceremonies, sacred gatherings and tribal meetings for hundreds of years.

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Soaking in hot springs is known as balneotherapy and it is a practice that has many health benefits. It can relieve stress, pain, skin issues, and much more. Bathing in the water of hot springs can boost circulation, as your skin soaks up minerals such as calcium, magnesium, niacin and sodium bicarbonate. This can increase blood circulation and oxygen flow to the muscles, like when you exercise. This is beneficial in keeping your heart and other vital organs healthy and strong. Balneotherapy can reduce stress and promote sleep. The heat relaxes tense muscles, easing any pain felt, and raises the temperature of the body, which can improve sleep and relieve insomnia. The mineral-rich water can also naturally relieve certain skin issues like dryness, eczema, and psoriasis. Hot springs are thought to be safe for most people, but if you’re pregnant, elderly or suffer from cardiovascular issues, it’s best to consult your doctor beforehand to ensure it’s safe.

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10. Healthy Desserts

When we think of dessert, cake, ice cream or other generally unhealthy foods will come to mind. In Japan, dessert is used as a chance to cleanse and freshen the palate after a meal, rather than enjoying a heavy, sugar-laden snack. Japanese desserts often include fruits and have been developed over centuries by using available ingredients like rice and sweet beans so they are usually very low in sugar. One popular dessert in Japan is mocha, which is a rice cake made by pounding a particular style of rice – mochigome – until it becomes dough-like and sticky. Mochi can be stuffed with various fillings like sweet red bean paste, strawberries, and even ice cream. Dorayaki is another healthy Japanese dessert made from castella (a Japanese sponge cake) and topped with ingredients like chestnuts and whipped cream.

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In Japan, fruit sandwiches, green tea meringue cookies, and squash or pumpkin pie are also popular dessert choices. There is no reason why you can’t enjoy dessert after a meal, but Western dessert tends to be high in refined flour, sugar, caramel and other fattening ingredients, which is where the unhealthy label comes from. Luckily, there are many ways to make dessert healthier by swapping out the bad ingredients for the good. Choose brown sugar rather than white, whole-wheat flour instead of refined, cocoa powder or cacao nibs instead of chocolate, and use a milk substitute like almond, coconut or rice milk in place of full cream milk. Making simple choices like this will gradually improve your health and your quality of life.

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11. An abundance of untouched nature

If you’ve ever taken a look at all the brochures and images picturing Japan, one thing is constant. Regardless of the urban sprawl going on, there are thousands of acres of untouched nature. You can see mountains without ski resorts and breathtaking wildlife reserves. This may indeed seem like a weird occurrence to westerners. Why is that the case anyway? For any outsider, capitalizing on touristic potential is something more than normal. In Japan, things are a little different. The entire nation nurtures a friendly outlook on nature. They don’t exploit their natural riches nor do they ruin them for the sake of profit. Ever since an early age, children are taught to live in harmony with nature and not disrespect it. Because of this, they have a tendency of going on weekend-long retreats in the wilderness. It’s a nationwide sport that takes away the stress of the work week. Therefore, it’s pretty much necessary to maintain a healthy outlook on life.

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The health benefit of the wilderness is the absence of pollution and urban sprawl. We too adore retreating into the wilderness, but our green areas are more scarce. This East Asian country has a friendly and respectful relationship with nature. Because of this, they get to take the stress off their minds and relax. Despite how much we disregard it, relaxation is the key to longevity. Even though Japanese women work some of the longest hours in the world, they also live the longest. They offset their city time and hard labor with relaxing nature trips. Because they were educated in such a manner, they know how to behave in such situation. A cultural factor such as that makes their minds and bodies stay in pristine condition. It’s no wonder that they outlive everyone.

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12. Commuting to work and school

This may not seem like a pronounced enough factor, but it has a great effect on people’s health. Japan is a big country and people often have to find work or education far from their homes. We’re so used to working half an hour away or going to a neighboring school, right? This is definitely the case, but this convenience can lead us to an early grave. How is this even possible? Allows us to elaborate on the subject. In Japan, people often ride the bike, walk or ride the train to work. What do all these means of transport have in common? Standing and physical activity, right. This might seem like a normal occurrence to them, but it serves as a youth retainer. By undergoing such strain, the bodies of Japanese women simply cannot age. The added strain and healthy habits allow them to age slower and be more physically capable. Women in Japan don’t only live longer, but they live a quality life all those years.

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A usual sight in our part of the world is barely mobile old people. In Japan, you can see 90-year-old ladies running marathons, jogging and going to the gym. Due to decades of commuting, walking and riding bikes, a habit is seemingly formed. Their fitness and long lives aren’t the result of a magic potion. Day by day, they add building blocks to the fortress of their health and well-being. So, if you intend to follow their footstep, try taking your bike out for a ride. It may seem like a hassle at first, but it has numerous benefits. You will avoid traffic jams. In fact, traffic jams were the reason for all the bike purchases in Japan in the first place. That Japanese old age and shape are not unattainable.

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13. A universal healthcare system

Much has been talked about the healthcare in the US and other countries. A big downside to it is the expensive program that many are obliged to follow. We often tend to pay staggering amounts of money for routine surgeries. This is without mentioning the medications and other medical necessities. In Japan, health is a priority and the government treats it that way. Every single person in Japan has their healthcare completely covered by the state. The entire program takes only 10% of the GDP, which is much less than many western countries. Paid for by the government, every single citizen can enjoy the benefits of this system. Because healthcare is free, people don’t have to shy away from regular checkups. In other countries, people simply don’t do this due to the hassle and the immense costs. In Japan, going to a monthly checkup is nothing strange. That way, people ensure that their organism is always in a stable state.

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The “checkup culture” goes beyond simple awareness. This kind of care for your own body is organized in every part of the community. Kids in school often have organized screenings and medical assessments being done. Employers are happy to have such schemes in place for their employees too. This mentality is something widely understood and embedded in their lives. Japanese women don’t have a habit of going to the doctors when something is wrong. Because they do so for preventive measures, they simply don’t get sick. This affects the government too. Because people pay attention to their health, less people get sick. Because fewer people get sick, the government doesn’t spend so much money on treatment. Those excess financial resources are invested in modernizing health equipment. They also donate the money to the less fortunate and share their wealth.

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14. Regular social gatherings

Although Japan is still a capitalist country, they are much different than the rest of the world. Many of us don’t have time for social gatherings when we are deep in our career. One would think this is also that case in Japan, but it’s not. Even though they work a lot, they offset this busy schedule by spending a lot of time with their friends. This is a habit formed ever since an early age. Many Japanese women have lifelong friends that they spend time with on a weekly basis. Why is this the case? Other than the obvious cultural factors, a logistic side is present, too. Japanese apartments are very small and have only a minimal amount of space. They simply don’t like excess space and want to have only the necessities. Because of this, they can’t afford to invite their friends over. Therefore, they have a habit of going out a lot.

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We may seem going out as an expense, but in Japan – this is not the case. Restaurants are very cheap and people love to eat out. In fact, they use their apartments mainly for sleeping and studying when needed. Because they go out so often, they can relax and have loads of fun. This is something that is indispensable in the life of an average Japanese woman. Regular social gatherings keep mental dexterity high even at an old age. In Japan, nobody suffers from dementia or age-related mental illnesses. Because they are so productive and immersed in society, their brains are engaged all the time. This is one crucial factor when it comes to maintaining neural synapses. A lack of social activity is directly correlated to mental aging. It seems that the Japanese put great value in keeping their minds intact. They even exercise together all the time.

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15. Productivity at work

Now, this may seem like a surprise. All the doubts have a base in the fact that work does cause stress in certain instances. Stress, in turn, has been the cause of many maladies, disorders and an early death. If so, then why are Japanese women still the fittest and the oldest in the entire world? The answer is a bit more complex, but it lies in the difference between the notion of work there. We don’t look at work the same way. Productivity makes a human being have a purpose. He does something beneficial and gets rewarded for it. In these cases, people both provide for their families and make their society a better place. In the western part of the world, we tend to despise work and view it as slavery for low wages. It only causes stress and is, in many cases, a necessary evil for all those who want to survive. In Japan, things are way different.

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If an employee is productive in Japan, he is rewarded and praised for his contributions. The salaries are really high, so people feel like they’re investing effort and it pays off. But, that’s not even the whole story. Ever since an early age, the Japanese are taught that working hard is something to be proud of. Their parents and teachers often point out that there is beauty in the struggle. Because of this, their entire economy and industry function flawlessly. Not only are people happier, but they better their environment. That happiness and a sense of belongings are the reasons for longevity. Also, running around all day is a great day to melt some extra pounds. That, along with standing the entire day because of commuting, are excellent ways to live a long, fit life.

Stress management

We all know that stress ravages the body and damages it in the long term. Even though we mistake stress for a mere emotion, it takes its toll on the body as well. It manifests itself in many different ways. Signs and symptoms vary from person to person. What they have in common is that they cause the body harm and can reduce your life expectancy. Unchecked, stress can lead to multiple debilitating physical conditions. The organ most affected by stress is the heart. When you feel stressed, your heart is pumping harder trying to get hormones to the body to help you cope. A heart cannot sustain such additional activity for prolonged periods of time. This makes the heart susceptible to diseases that can cause it to stop functioning correctly. The added pressure of your blood pumping through the vessels can lead to high blood pressure, which is known as the ‘silent killer.’ Untreated, it can result in an untimely death.

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Stress-related eating can lead to obesity and Type 2 diabetes. These health conditions weaken the heart and the body’s systems at large. Stress ages you and makes you look and feel older than what you are. Managing your stress is essential. Most stress cannot be avoided, but it can be managed. Japanese women cope with stress by making the most of the time they get off from work. They don’t laze around though. They participate in community events on national public holidays. It’s normal to go out for the day on an excursion. Usually, it concludes with a bit of shopping. And most women would agree: that’s a de-stressor of note! Sticking to the traditions of Japanese life and incorporating them into the fast-paced lifestyle of today seems to help Japanese women.

Home cooking

Japanese people eat out far less than their Western counterparts. Although they have access to the same takeout restaurants such as MacDonald’s, they don’t make a habit of frequenting them too often. This reduces the amount of unhealthy, unsaturated fats they eat. It’s convenient to grab some takeout after a long day, but it doesn’t do your body any favors. But these meals are loaded with fats and carbohydrates. They don’t contain that much protein. And they contain hardly any vitamins and minerals. The sense of fullness you feel after eating an unhealthy takeout meal is temporary. But the effects on your body are permanent. Intake of foods such as these on a regular basis leads to conditions such as cholesterol. Your heart’s health is in danger. Filling your body with these meals affects your body’s ability to process and break down sugar. This, in turn, will lead to Type 2 diabetes. Takeout meals that are eaten on a weekly basis expose you to the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Too much takeout can see your life cut short.

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Bear in mind that just because you’re avoiding takeout restaurants and eating at home doesn’t mean you’re eating healthily. If you’re buying processed foods, you are exposing your body to colors, flavors, and preservatives. Excess sugar, fat, or salt in these meals can be nasty for you. This is where Japanese women have the advantage. Their diets are rich in whole foods which are not processed. They eat a lot of vegetables which are rich in vitamins and minerals. They also consume more rice as carbohydrates than wheat. Food is prepared from scratch which is the healthiest way to go about making meals. Eating out is reserved for special occasions and does not happen often.

Skincare routines

Japanese women are renowned for their beautiful, flawless skin. They tend to look younger as it seems that their skin does not age until they get much older. Japanese women don’t get wrinkles as soon as Western women. While they are genetically predisposed to a fabulous skin, they don’t leave it to chance. Japanese women have skincare routines to keep them looking youthful. Their diet also contributes to their age-defying skin. One of the most important skincare factors that keep Japanese women’s skin looking fresh is cleanliness. Hygiene is important in the Japanese culture, and the skin is no exception. Removing makeup and making sure there are no traces left behind is one of the critical steps in the process of skin care. They use an oil-based cleanser. Western women tend to avoid oil-based products as they believe oil is bad for the skin. The Japanese believe that keeping a balance of moisture but getting rid of dirt particles is the secret to good skin.

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Keeping the facial skin pores clean is the next step. This is about removing oils that you don’t want on your skin. These include the oils secreted by perspiration and those that pollution adds to the air. A good toner keeps the pores tightened up and reduces their visibility. Products containing alcohol are avoided. Lotion or moisturizer keeps the skin elastic and looking youthful. Touch is an integral part of a Japanese woman’s skincare routine. Massage is a technique used by many women to keep their skin looking young. Women use their fingers and the whole hand to perform facial massages. They also have wooden rollers that they use. These techniques stimulate the generation of new skin cells. They keep a healthy flow of blood to the skin as well which is essential for the healing of damaged skin cells.

Wonderful wasabi

One of the unique features of the Japanese diet is wasabi. This plant, commonly known as Japanese horseradish gives a meal an entirely different flavor. It is a staple addition to meals in many Japanese households. It is famous as a condiment for sashimi and sushi. But it also forms part of many other traditional Japanese recipes. Eaten in moderation, wasabi has many health benefits which can make you look and feel younger. Unlike chili peppers which contain capsaicin and make your tongue feel like it’s on fire, wasabi works differently. It has an olfactory effect. The chemicals released when you eat it form vapors that affect your nasal passages. The isothiocyanate antioxidants make wasabi a powerful contributor to a healthy immune system.

Japanese wasabi. Credit: Shutterstock

Wasabi is low in calories and saturated fats but rich in fiber and protein. It contains the minerals zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and sodium. The range of B vitamins present in wasabi is impressive, not to mention its Vitamin A and C content as well. Wasabi can prevent certain types of cancer. It also slows down the rate at which cancerous cells grow. These include stomach cancer and leukemia cells. It seems that wasabi can promote the death of cancer cells. This cell death is called apoptosis. Wasabi has anti-hypercholesterolemic properties. They can help to lower cholesterol levels which reduce the risk of heart disease. Wasabi is also a natural inhibitor of clot formation. Clots that form and pass through the brain can cause a stroke. This wonder food is also an anti-inflammatory effect, keeping your joints feeling younger. The high fiber content of wasabi makes it essential for proper digestion and gut health. This is vital for maintaining a healthy weight.

Happiness

The Japanese have an important concept that forms one of the cornerstones of their culture. It is called ikigai. The term is divided into two words. They are iki which means life and gai which means worth. It’s about a feeling of self-fulfillment and happiness that comes from within. Ikigai is about what brings joy into your life. It could be your job. But it could just as well be your family, a hobby, or an interest. Add to this the concept of yarigai. This speaks to the value of doing something. Hatarakigai is the value of working. Combined, these concepts create a ‘formula’ for happiness for the Japanese. Ikigai has to do with your future and what you plan to do to fulfill yourself and your dreams. It creates a sense of hope and something to look forward to. A sense of purpose allows you to face adversity and conquer it. This is an essential aspect of the concept of happiness in Japanese culture. In Western culture, happiness emphasizes feeling good and having positive thoughts. Japanese culture, however, also takes into account the ability to be hopeful in the face of obstacles as being part of a state of happiness.

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Being conscious of what makes you happy and satisfied is based on emotion, not logic. This is difficult to assign to the Japanese culture with its reputation for clinical efficiency and scientific genius. But the Japanese are taught from the time they are young to be in touch with their feelings. They are encouraged to identify their ikigai and make the most of it. Feeling self-fulfilled and happy keeps you looking and feeling younger. The positive feelings it gives you and a sense of purpose make you feel invigorated and alive. Happiness prevents comfort eating, which is the cause of a lot of people’s obesity. Finding ikigai and acting on it seem to benefit Japanese women and keep them looking and feeling more youthful.

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