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Triangle Eating and other interesting Japanese dietary tidbits

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  • Triangle Eating and other interesting Japanese dietary tidbits

    Some interesting info from my Japanese born girlfriend (born in japan, came here when she was 18, stayed relatively thin until a few years ago. Then went about 3/4 primal with me and lost 2 pant sizes). Japanese have often come up in conversations and articles regarding diet, nutrition and health so I thought I'd share. Her mother told me that diabetes is now a growing epidemic in Japan. She believes it's the shift towards more packaged food, grains and refined sugar (she doesn't read primal/paleo blogs at all :P ) Coincidentally, her mother also developed type 2 diabetes after her 5 year stint in the US.

    Triangle Eating
    3 bowls and no plates. 1 bowl for veggies, 1 bowl for meat, 1 bowl for rice (sometimes another bowl for miso soup). She told me children are taught in elementary school to eat a little from each bowl and consume them equally without emptying one bowl and moving to another. It's reinforced all the way till middle school/high school. The reasoning? She was told that the variety of foods kept your appetite under control. Compare this to me scrambling eggs and ground beef, dumping it on a pile of mixed greens then swallowing the plate whole like an orca :P

    Veggies first, rice last and usually very small amount
    In her household, vegetables or soup were usually consumed first in the triangle. Sometimes rice was withheld until the very end of the meal and by then, she was usually too full to eat all of her rice. Compared to how I was raised, being in a filipino household, rice made up anywhere between 50%-75% of our plate, not to mention second helpings were the norm. I shudder to think of the many times I would just pour some of the leftover sauce over a large plate or bowl of rice without any meat or veggies T_T

    80% rule
    Her now 98 year old grandmother told everyone to leave the table when they were about 80% full, though I don't know the exact wording she used but that's an approximation. First reason was social, you didn't want to appear as if you were starving and second was health reasons, she believed you would live longer on fewer calories. She's also super sharp and regularly does push ups, bridges and breathing exercises. Super cute too...for 98 :P

    Bulk food buying and bulk food prep is not a normal practice
    Growing up, her mother went to the market to buy fresh groceries almost every day. They hardly ever ate the same meal 2 meals in a row, let alone 2-3 days in a row. Almost always bought exactly enough for each meal and each person. Compared to how I was raised, my mother would stock up the fridge and pantry one or twice a month with mostly frozen, canned or packaged foods. She would create huge dishes that contained mostly salt and lasted 3-4 days in normal refrigeration. Sometimes she would even freeze meals to make them last longer.

    Pastured raw eggs
    Growing up, she would normally crack raw egg over hot vegetables, meat or rice with a little soy sauce. The catch? All of her eggs at the time were 100% mountainside free range.

    The bread here in America is completely different
    She believes it has something to do with our flour. We used to frequent a Taiwanese bakery and she said their bread was closer to Japanese bread. I later found out that the bakery imported their flour from Asia. Why go through all that trouble I wondered...

    The long term triangle
    They are taught lots of red meat when they're young, less red meat during adult hood, and little to no red meat during old age. In fact, they are taught to not eat anything packaged, processed or imported and eat native Japanese ingredients almost exclusively (mountain yams, local vegetables, soy, fish). Aside from soy, that sounds a lot like articles I've read on ancestral eating and health.

    Green tea was consumed more than drinking water
    Daily consumption of green tea was normal. She only drank cold water when it was hot or after physical activity. Hardly ever during or after a meal and definitely less than 8 glasses a day.

    Sounds like a lot of these parameters fit a primal lifestyle easily.
    Last edited by pacificBeef; 07-15-2011, 12:22 PM. Reason: spelling
    Currently dabbling in: IF, leangains, Starting Strength, 5/3/1

  • #2
    I lived in Japan for two years. Not a large metropolis like Tokyo but a mere 45 minute train ride to the NE, a modern planned city full of research institutions, had the feel of a wealthy US suburb. It was a car based city, you basically drove to work, but there was ample room for those who wanted to walk or ride bikes in most areas.

    One thing I noticed, the young generation (18-22 something) had become either big boned or borderline obese (i.e. both kinds) just like in America. Not everyone, but it was surprisingly common.

    I attribute it to ample access to fast food (McD's, Pizza Hut, KFC, 7-eleven, high availability of western style deserts and pastries, etc...).

    I had a terrible eating habit then, still mostly western style. The only reason I think I didn't gain weight tremendously is that things were still a bit healthier there food wise and I had much more walking activity. Once I moved to another country (SEAsia) for a few years, things went down hill fast - no way I was walking around in the heat


    • #3
      Thanks for sharing this - it makes so much sense! I have long suspected Asians ate much less rice than we think, traditionally. It sounds like the US influence on the Phillippines probably is why you grew up on so much more rice than your Japanese friend.
      5'4" 39yo mother to five sweeties & married to their AMAZING DaddyGrok
      Current Weight: 175lb__________________________________Goal: 135lb
      Deadlift: 240lb________________________________________Back Squat: 165lb
      Bench: 130lb__________________________________________Pre ss: 85lb
      ***Winning a 20-year war against binge eating disorder***


      • #4
        The bread for me is so different here as opposed to New Zealand and it's so fluffy and sweet, it falls apart. I don't eat it anymore though so it's a moot point :P
        I'm a paleo foodie, come check out my recipes:


        • #5
          Very interesting.

          Another thing is the Japanese drink lots of hot tea, not so much cokes and juice.


          • #6
            Originally posted by DFH View Post
            Another thing is the Japanese drink lots of hot tea, not so much cokes and juice.
            Yes I forgot to add that. Fixed it.
            Currently dabbling in: IF, leangains, Starting Strength, 5/3/1


            • #7
              Originally posted by DFH View Post
              Very interesting.

              Another thing is the Japanese drink lots of hot tea, not so much cokes and juice.
              Eh? They are drinking cokes and juice more and more as years go by. They were certain VERY plentiful all the time I was in Japan.

              Main difference is, they are sweetened with real cane sugar, not HFCS. I realize thats not much better, but it is still better in some respects...


              • #8
                I'm sure it doesn't help that America feels the need to supply them with some of their new cokes, juice, and fast food chains. Spread the obesity because misery loves company.

                This was a great post btw! I love the Japanese food's too bad they starting to take on ours now.
                && It's not just about living well, it's about dying well.


                • #9
                  I'm too stubborn to give up so I keep on trying.

                  You're never going to get to the top of the stairs if you don't walk up them.