Mon, Jun 24, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Can the Japanese diet help you live to 100?

Japanese people are more likely to reach 100 years old than anyone else in the world, a fact that some researchers attribute to their diet

By Michael Booth  /  The Guardian, LONDON

“I drink about six cups a day,” says Masaru Nishimori, 85, who is sitting in the shade of Koganji temple while he waits for his wife to return from the shops.

In the afternoon, Nishimori will allow himself to veer from his otherwise strict regimen of two modestly sized meals a day with a snack of tea and rice crackers or, if he is feeling particularly reckless, a Japanese-style sweet.

The retired hospital administrator describes himself as practically a vegetarian and credits his perfect health to very rare dalliances with meat, and then only a single stick of grilled yakitori chicken.

“If I could point to one thing that has kept me healthy all these years, it would be the lack of meat in my diet,” he says, although giving up alcohol and smoking at the age of 25 cannot have done him any harm.

Ono, a lifelong non-drinker and non-smoker, is not quite as abstemious when it comes to meat. She likes pork, but only lean, thin slices mixed with bean sprouts and other vegetables. Like Nishimori, most of her protein comes from grilled fish: for her, oily arabesque greenling; for him, Pacific saury or sardines.

Aside from rice and green tea, the octogenarians share other perennials in their diets: miso soup, drunk regularly, but in small quantities due to its high salt content, and nimono, a low-calorie dish of vegetables simmered in mirin, soy sauce and cooking sake.

Neither has suffered a serious illness and both deal with the Tokyo heat and humidity with far more poise than I do.

“When I go for my annual checkup, my doctor sends me away with the same words every time: ‘There’s nothing wrong with you,’” Nishimori says. “The only physical problem I have right now is a slightly crooked front tooth.”

Michiko Ono’s menu

Breakfast (6:30am) Boiled white rice mixed with raw egg; bread roll; green tea.

Lunch (11:30am) Small bowl of rice; nimono vegetables (potato, daikon radish, carrots, taro root); thinly sliced stir-fried pork and bean sprouts; miso soup; green tea.

Dinner (6:30 pm) Sushi with her family; green tea.

Masaru Nishimori’s menu

Breakfast (10am) White rice; miso soup containing Chinese cabbage, sliced onion; green tea; occasionally milk or fruit juice.

No lunch, but an afternoon snack of rice crackers or sweet bean mochi; green tea.

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