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Eating Habits in a Land of Long, Healthy Lives

September 12, 2016

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One soup and three side dishes

In addition to being low in fat and calories, Japanese cuisine is also distinguished by the style in which it is eaten. A traditional meal typically consists of one soup and three dishes; in other words, rice, soup, a main dish and two side dishes.

Rice is the staple food and is a source of carbohydrates or energy. Miso or clear soup supplement moisture requirements, and the main dish and side dishes are highly nutritious. This basic menu ensures a well-balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients.

Japan also has a traditional principle of "five ways, five flavors, five colors." "Five ways" refers to the use of five cooking methods: raw (cutting), simmering, grilling or searing, steaming and frying. The five flavors are sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. Added to that is umami, the flavor of dashi, which has actually come to be recognized as the sixth flavor. The five colors are white, black, red, yellow and green.

Keeping in mind the principle of five ways, five (or six!) flavors, five colors, in Japan a conscious effort is made to prepare the main dish and side dishes with different cooking methods, flavors and ingredients. The resulting meal features a wide diversity of ingredients, and is nutritionally balanced.

So it is possible to enjoy a healthy meal full of natural ingredients just by sticking to the traditional wisdom of "one soup and three dishes."

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