Eat for longevity
Healthy Japanese fare may add years to your life.
By Joan Teotico
The secret of longevity may actually be in what you eat, as ongoing studies about nutrition could have potential benefits in slowing down aging and lowering the risk of contracting diseases.
Launched in 1975, the Okinawa Centenarian Study is an ongoing investigation that examines how diet, exercise and genes play a role in the exceptionally long life and good health of nearly a thousand centenarians from the Okinawa prefecture in Japan.
Okinawans have maintained a body mass index from 18 to 22; researchers speculate this could be due to a diet low in calories and glycemic load. They also adhere to the practice of hara hachi bu or eating until 80 percent full.
The slow rate in loss of bone mass may be attributed to the elderly Okinawans’ high consumption of the bone-building mineral, calcium, and flavonoids, which are plant-based compounds that contain antioxidants. The researchers also discovered that elderly Okinawans have a low risk of contracting certain types of cancer; their diet, which includes a high consumption of fruits and vegetables and high intake of nutrients such as omega-3, unsaturated fat, fiber and flavonoids, may offer protective effects.
“Japanese cuisine is generally light and healthy. … It’s low in cholesterol and [uses] only fresh ingredients for cooking,” says Rory Subida of The Maya Kitchen. Chawan mushi, a savory custard appetizer, is made of eggs and pieces of chicken, seafood and mushrooms. It’s flavored with dashinomoto stock made of dried bonito flakes and kombu (seaweed); mirin, a sweet cooking rice wine; and soy sauce. Granulated dashinomoto and mirin can be bought at Japanese groceries or at the Asian food section of select supermarkets. Ingredients vary—depending on the season. In other parts of Japan, udon noodles are added.
Chawan mushi is just one of the manyd elicious and healthy dishes by the Japanese that are loaded with ingredients that boost health and contain disease-protecting nutrients. Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that boost our immune system, promote gastrointestinal health, fend off free radicals linked to aging and improve digestion. Shiitake mushrooms are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Chicken and fish are recommended by the American Heart Association as meat products that contain less saturated fat compared to red meat such as beef, pork and lamb.
Delicious yet nutrient-dense, Japanese food would surely get the nod of health- and diet-conscious Filipinos. This recipe for chawan mushi is culled from Anvil Publishing’s “Easy Japanese Cooking for Filipinos” by The Maya Kitchen and Chef Seiji Kimura. Dig in! The right nourishment might just be the secret to lifelong wellness.