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LNorman

The book" Japanese Women don't get Fat or Old"

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I recently saw this book in the bookstore. It is somewhat in the vein of "French women don't get Fat". However, as someone who only thinks of Japanese food as sushi, the meals and guidelines for eating sounded intriguing. The book describes is written by what I would call "an upper-class" woman from Japan who lives in NY. I was intrigued because her American-born husband started eating her diet and lost weight. My doctor recently told me the lose some weight; this doctor didn't give me the chance to explain that I can exercise all I want, I only lose weight when I don't eat. However, I'm going to start exercising at the company gym which is just $20/ month.

The author writes there are 7 pillars for Japanese cooking. Among them is lots of fish, lots of rice (it fills one up so there isn't any room for junk food), portion control, little or no dessert, lots of fruits and vegetables (especially Japanese fruits and vegetables) , making food look presentable and chewing to enjoy every mouthful, and lots of green tea.

She presented a typical country breakfast of nori, tofu, "first" daishi soup, 1 hard boiled egg, rice, a piece of fruit, green tea plus a few other things that I forgot.

My local grocery store has a lot of international food but I couldn't find dashi flakes. I would like to try this breakfast so that I'm eating more during the day and trying to break my very, very bad habit of eating a full meal after midnight (left over when I worked an evening shift at a newswire service).

Could anyone comment on these type of diet and would a large Asian grocery story (which I have access to) have dashi flakes? Plus is the reason the Japanese people can eat an egg a day because there is no little meat in their diet?

I appreciate any comments, negative or positive, because I've been interested in the idea of food cultures that contribute to longevity of age (see recent National Geographic article on "the secrets of aging").

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I'll confess that I wouldn't mind reading this book....

Does it have a recipe for dashi, or does it call for the instant kind? If it has you make the dashi yourself I think (and everyone else on this board knows more than I do here) you want to look for bonito flakes, not dashi flakes. At least that's what I've used. I have also used niboshi to make dashi when I'm feeling extra fishtacular.

More often I use instant dashi, which is labelled hon-dashi when I buy it. This is just a granulated powder that you put in water et voila, dashi.


Jennie

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I have heard about this book but have yet to look at it. The Japanese traditional diet is very healthy, note I say traditional as nowadays fewer and fewer people are eating this way. Many Japanese foods/dishes are a low in calories/fat and pack a great nutrional value. Just avoid the fried foods and keep up your gym membership and the pounds just may come off.

One thing to be careful of is that many Japanese foods are quite high in salt. The breakfast you listed above sounds fine but sometimes you will see salted grilled fish, these can be salted to varying degrees so choose those with lower salt (usually labeled amajio 甘塩) or even better buy unsalted and salt your own. Add these fish to a meal with miso soup (choose a low sodium type of miso if you are really worried) and Japanese pickles (often very highly salted) and you may have a sodium overload especially if you are not used to it.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I forgot to mention that dashi is very simple to make and any Asian market should stock instant granules as well.

Check out the dashi thread for advice on making your own and including pictures and hints for using the instant stuff.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Course, it depends where you choose for your birdwatching! When I lived in Tokyo near a posh kindergarten, the slender mothers could be seen trotting along on their birdlike legs at 8 in the morning, in their gorgeously accessorized suits, dragging their tubby little darlings by one manicured hand. I used to wonder why they didn't just lie them down and roll them along the road.

Now I live on the other side of the tracks, and the mothers make the earth shake as they pound their considerable weight along the pavement. They couldn't possibly hold the fragile hands of their stick-like children, because they have their cell-phones in one hand, and their big bag of discount-shop instant noodles in the other hand.

Guess which side of town I feel more at home in! :laugh:

More to the point...I think that "lots of rice" is only advisable for breakfast or lunch, and if you are doing plenty of exercise. The biggest snag with eating that way is that it works only if your diet is also quite low in fat and sugar - if you add modern levels of fat and sugar to traditional levels of starch, you may not lose weight easily.

I have heard that Japanese short-grain rice with its high amylose content is not digested as quickly as most long-grain rices...but I don't know enough to say whether or not that would really affect weight loss. Japanese women often cook a mix of barley and rice when they want to lose weight, and when really driven, may resort to brown rice.

"Japanese vegetables" in this case probably means in particular the high-fiber vegetables.

Eggs...very likely the traditional breakfast would include salt/dried fish or tofu/natto, with eggs eaten more rarely, but obviously eggs are more easily available in the US.

A bigger breakfast with more protein but less fat than the average cereal breakfast is one of the best aspects of traditional Japanese eating. When I first came to Japan, I HAD to eat the breakfast I was served, and although it was hard to get through that much food early in the morning, it stopped me feeling tired or craving sweet things late in the afternoon!

Good luck.

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There is definitely more to Japanese food than sushi :raz:

Unfortunately, there are not many cookbooks in English beyond sushi, which is a special-occasion food. Some of these may be out of print, but for a beginner, I'd recommend Hiroko Urakami's "Japanese Family-Style Recipes," Downer and Yoneda's "Step by step Japanese Cooking" or Takahashi's "The Joy of Japanese Cooking." Tsuji's "Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art" is one of the most comprehensive books and definitely available, but it might be a little complex if you are still looking for instant dashi. If you are in NYC and can get to Kinokuniya bookstore, see if you can order "100 recipes from Japanese Cooking," a bilingual book with some of the best simple, authentic home cooking I have seen. Whatever you choose, get a book with color photos of the unfamiliar ingredients.

In winter, one-pot cooking like mizutaki and shabu-shabu are warming and healthy, not to mention super fast and easy.

Japanese people are slim and long-lived for 2 reasons: portion control and genes. If you don't think it's possible to gain weight on rice, just remember sumo wrestlers, heh.

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I found this review of the book from the Boston Globe

Of the secrets in her mother's Japanese kitchen, one is that it is not enough to eat like a Japanese person: You must also behave like one. For instance, in Japan, people do not hop into their cars to run multiple unrelated errands. They benefit from the incidental exercise of walking and climbing hundreds of steps when taking trains and using one-speed bicycles to shop and to pick up their children at school.

There are plenty of food-related secrets, too. The most important may be the concept of ''hara hachi bunme" -- eating until you are 80 percent full. Portions are small and partially determined by plate size. Foods are eaten separately and enjoyed for their flavors as well as their eye appeal. Indeed, in Japan, everyone is a food stylist. Japanese women are exhorted by school principals to make sure the lunch they prepare for their children is well balanced and beautiful to behold.

This first part is extremely important, anywhere you go in Japan people are walking. Much of Japan is also quite hilly and when you are on a bicycle with one kid in the front and another in the back and are balancing grocery bags on each handle you have probably the equivalent of a 30 minute workout.

In the second paragraph they mention small portion sizes, this is also very important. the Japanese tend to eat small portions of many different dishes.

The nutrional guidelines for Japan are a bit different than the US, instead of a pyramid, the Japanese use a circle. Here is what I wrote about it in a different thread:

In Japan the food pryamid is actually a circle , just like in the picture shown above.

There are 6 food groups and the following information I am taking from my boshi techo , this is the "mother's handbook" that all pregnant women receive that records information form doctors visits, weight, blood pressure, urine test result, etc as well as information from the hospital after the birth about both the mother and baby. It also has a section in which the doctor notes all vaccines given and records everything from the health check the child has from birth until age 5. It is also sort of an all purpose pregnancy child book giving information on health and general wellness for both mother and child. my last child was born in 2000, so the information is from that edition, I doubt it has changed.

Anyway the 6 groups (in parantheses are the examples given in the book):

1. protein (fish, meat, eggs, soy products)

2. foods high in calcium (milk, milk products, fish bones, seaweeds)

3. foods high in vitamin A (carotene) (green and yellow vegetables)

4. foods high in vitamin C and minerals (other vegetables and fruits)

5. grains, foods good for energy in sugar form (rice, bread, noodles, potatoes)

6. fats, foods good for energy in fats form (oils, butter, mayo)

The Japanese circle focuses on balance and rather than saying how many servings of each group the recommendation is to eat 30 different kinds of foods everyday some from each group .

from The Japanese school lunch: a photo essay


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I would suggest that this thread be moved to the General Food Topics Forum to get more response. I'd like to hear what other members have to say about this book.

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I appreciate the answers I've gotten. The book definitely shows that that the Japanese food culture is holistic and encompasses many more things than just the breakfast I asked about. There's a whole ethos toward food that Americans simply can't find the time for or don't know about.

I find it difficult to cook for myself when my husband only likes meat, potatoes, and doesn't like fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables, or any products made from these things. I don't mind cooking for myself and I don't think it's my duty to cook for him since we are on different schedules. But it is hard to cook new dishes for just one person.

I going to try the gym at work since it's very cheap. I'm trying to change my diet also.

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I looked at the book in the store but for some reason didn't think to buy it. It seems pretty attractive to me. I am extremely fond of Japanese food, but outside of sushi and sashimi my usual method is to buy stuff at Mitsuwa and try to figure out what to do with it.

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