Main image of the rice field in Japan courtesy of Catherine/RumpleTeaser
“Made in Japan” basically sums up the quality of most Japanese food ingredients, except if you don’t get what I mean by that, let me explain how that has anything to do with whether or not Japanese food is healthy.
I know one dude who thought when I cited aspects of Japanese food culture, he thought it reeked of idealism (his feelings) because dude does not understand the culture, let alone Japanese culture. Not surprising since his perspective, like the vast majority of us Murican’s is American-centric.
Culture is Defined as:
“The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.”Oxford Languages
Made in China, Japan, to the U.S. All Conjure Up Expectations
“Made in” embodies the country of origin of production, and that “made in” label also conjures up thoughts of the product being either: cheaply produced, well-engineered, high-quality (build materials/reliability), innovative, to “well at least it looks cool.” All these product attributes reflect on the culture of the country of origin.
Based on similar metrics as the ones I rattled off, Statista and Dalia Research ranked countries from 1 to 49th place (take it with a grain of salt).
- European Union
If you want to know how some of the other countries faired:
- Japan (8th place)
- United States (10th)
- China (49th, or last place)
The Core Food Ingredients to Japanese Cuisine
From sukiyaki, miso soup, to sushi, you are bound to use any one of these or all these ingredients.
NOTE: Americanized Japanese food is not Japanese food, and if you want to know what some healthy Japanese foods are, Gurunavi has 8 dishes/ingredients you should seek out. I also listed 19 real Japanese dishes/foods.
|Soy sauce:||A liquid seasoning made of fermented (Aspergillus) soy beans, roasted crushed wheat, salt, and water.|
|Miso||A paste made commonly of soy beans, salt, and koji (Aspergillus oryzae) although rice, barely, seaweed, and a number other ingredients are sometimes used.|
|Mirin||A fermented rice wine with a low alcohol content with a high sugar content is labeled as hon-mirin (aji-mirin is a cost-effective alternative that is widely available) .|
|Sake||A fermented rice wine that utilizes polished rice that removes the bran. The ingredients consist of rice, water, and koji-kin (Aspergillus oryzae).|
|Dashi||Is the stock used throughout Japanese cuisine. The most common ones are made of kombu (kelp), katsuobushi (skipjack tuna), niboshi (sardines) to a vegetarian version made of shiitake (mushroom).|
What the Japanese Value in Regards to Food Ingredient Quality
American food culture has a clear and distinct market niche of foods heavily-marketed as healthy which is why it might be confusing to most Americans because many mainstream Japanese products are not so blatant with their product marketing. Although many commonly used products will employ and utilize ingredients that are:
- No additives (high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, to artificial coloring).
- Minimally processed.
- Regionally produced.
Not all of these attributes can be strictly attributed to being “healthier” such as non-GMO (ULProspector.com) or organic (Harvard Medical School), but there are potential arguments as to why it is better although regardless if “they are” or “are not,” American food producers are more than happy to cash in on this market.
Quality Is Considered an Inherent Component of Many Japanese Ingredients, Not Simply Marketing Buzzwords
Here are a few mainstream/common Japanese products not marketed (not blatantly labeled on the product packaging) solely under the guise of having no preservatives, non-GMO, to organic. The quality is instead considered an inherent component of the product, so you probably had no clue about the quality of the soy sauce you were using at your local sushi bar.
Many of these brands you may have had or come across, but many of these brands do not blatantly use buzzwords to market their products like American brands do under the guise of being healthy with “non-GMO, gluten-free, organic,” etc.
|Kikkoman all-purpose soy sauce |
“#1 brand in the world”
|Non-GMO, naturally (traditionally) brewed, no preservatives or no high fructose corn syrup, kosher.|
|Yamasa tamari soy sauce|
(*3) marketed towards Americans
|Non-GMO and USDA organic. No wheat.|
“Japan’s number one natural and organic miso”
|Non-GMO, triple certified organic (USDA, EC, and JAS).|
|Non-GMO (organic alcohol, filtered water, and organic salt), all natural, gluten-free, kosher.|
|Gekkeikan Traditional |
“The world’s most popular Junmai-shu”
|No sulfites are any preservatives.|
Not a common brand in the U.S.
|Non-GMO, additive free.|
|Takara mirin |
“The #1 brand in Japan”
|No *high-fructose corn syrup, sulfite free, kosher certified by the Orthodox Union.|
A popular brand in the U.S.
|Glucose syrup, water, alcohol, rice, corn syrup, and salt.|
A popular brand in the U.S.
|(*1) Fermented skipjack tuna.|
|Hokkaido yamadashi wild kombu |
A high-quality regional product
|(*2) Sea kelp from Hokkaido, Japan.|
(*2) For more information regarding kombu to katsuobushi, the umami information center is where you will want to go for that.
(*3) Tamari is not widely popular in Japan and only makes up a 1% market share (wheat is what defines Japanese soy sauce over a Chinese soy sauce and tamari is wheat free).
American Food Culture of Gluten-Free to No MSG
GTFO with “no MSG” because MSG is a naturally occurring ingredient (this is why many products say “no added MSG.” Keyword on “added”) in cheeses, tomatoes, to aged beef, but it is often only associated with Asian food.
So if you are going to be against MSG, like within American food culture, you can not selectively avoid and make a big deal out of an ingredient widely used by American food producers in products such as Dorito’s (snack foods), salad dressings, frozen meals, to fast food. I find a “diet” that is not applied across the board to be hypocritical, and if you want to hear more, you can read my rant on MSG.
American food culture is barely 245 years old, where as many food cultures around the world are thousands of years old. Maybe this might be why Japan has the lowest obesity rate in the world (as of 2017) according to the OECD (the U.S. is number one).– OECD article
As for what I think of being gluten-free, if it makes you feel better, have at it because I have heard some credible information regarding the reduction of gluten for some groups of people although the Mayo Clinic finds that there’s little evidence that a gluten-free diet offers any particular health benefits.
Like MSG, blindly adhering to American food trends dictated by American food producers does compound my view that anybody who adheres to a gluten-free diet just because and does not have Celiac disease, IBS, ataxia, type 1 diabetes or HIV is potentially a douche.
American Marketing Buzzwords Do Not Reflect Well on Us Americans Due to Our Low Life Expectancy
When it comes to the Japanese and Japanese food culture, many Japanese companies and ingredients have not hopped on the Murica bandwagon of actively marketing gluten-free to no MSG. This marketing trend is primarily an American thing, and looking at the data, we Americans are not the fittest and longest living nationality to back these trends (yes, I get that our entire population is not on this diet, but I am addressing the overall food culture).
NOTE: Your mayo and sauce covered sushi roll is Americanized Japanese food. Those rolls can not be found in Japan, and they are nothing like a futomaki (typically vegan to vegetarian), tekka (tuna), or kappa maki (cucumber) roll which are traditional Japanese rolls.
So how can American food producers dictate what is and what is not healthy? My guess? It is a profitable solution because our food culture does not have deep roots, is very hypocritical, and is always looking for the magic pill that thrives on buzzwords.
If Americans knew what a healthy diet is, why do we not rank in the top 10 or even in the top 30? Those spots belong to the Japanese and several other countries.
Life Expectancy by Country
|1||Hong Kong||Hong Kong|
|—||United States |
|United States |
How About the Fittest Countries According to the WHO
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and 168 countries Uganda and Finland are the most in shape countries although fit does not mean the healthiest (for some it is a condition born out of necessity).
The World’s Healthiest According to the Bloomberg Global Health Index
According to a number of factors from health risks such as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity; life expectancy; malnutrition, and causes of death. 169 economies were ranked by the Bloomberg Health Index, and these were the top 5 for 2020.
The United States ranked 35th.
The Least Obese Countries and the U.S. Ranks 38th
Based on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
- Japan, 3.7
- Korea, 5.3
- Italy, 9.8
- Switzerland, 10.3
- Norway, 12.0
The United States was last at 38.2
If You Need to Elevate Yourself Above All Others Through the Food You Eat, You Can Buy Online at Umami-insider.store
Imagine the reactions from your lowly friends and family when they realize you do not just use basic ingredients, and your ingredients are unpasteurized, organic, raw, and gluten-free. If that is you, have at it with your cool self, but I also find that there are several specialty products that you won’t find with large food producers and that I will be adding to my shopping cart (my picks are listed below):
|Brand/Product||Buzzword||Things You Can Brag to Your Friends About|
Echizen Nama Miso
|Unpasteurized||Echizen miso contains less salt and nearly two times more koji, exhibiting a mild and sweet taste profile. Hand-crafted by Komego, a 185-year old miso producer and the only miso purveyor to the historic Zen temple of Daihonzan Eiheiji, Echizen Nama Miso is truly an artisanal miso.|
(Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning)
16.66 fl oz
|Organic||The ingredients simply consist of organic rice, organic malted rice, salt, and organic sugar. (I had to look up more information as to whether or not this a “type” or a hon-mirin, so I tracked down the Morita’s website with their product information which says it is produced the same way).|
Koikuchi Raw Soy Sauce
|Raw||Wooden barrels made of Japanese cedar trees with Marukin’s artisan techniques. As a result, this unpasteurized dark koikuchi soy sauce exhibits a wonderfully fragrant aroma and rich flavor with a deep yet gentle umami.|
|(No need for any)||Broth made with ma-kombu is clear, delicate and aromatic. As the highest rated and the most popular type of kombu, it is used by many of the Kaiseki chefs in Japan to make an amazingly flavorful dashi broth for soup, noodle dishes, and simmered dishes.|
Juwari Soba Noodles
(100% Buckwheat Noodles)
|Gluten-free||Most soba noodles are made from a combination of buckwheat and wheat flour, but Juwari Soba Noodles are made from 100% buckwheat flour. Made in Hokkaido, this premium brand of soba noodles contains only water and buckwheat flour, with no additives.|
Embracing Japanese to the Global Food Culture
I hope by now you consider Japanese cuisine to be healthy which means you do not have to adopt an American diet of vegan, paleo, postbiotic, gluten-free, and no MSG to have a somewhat healthy diet.
Eating centuries-old cuisines from countries without a history of obesity and high death rates might be your best bet versus all the American businesses offering up every conceivable fad diet (“magic pill diet”).
Although, if you want a plan to put away the stretchy pants and live longer, try the food culture of not only Japan, but the world. If you do, you can incorporate a diet of Middle Eastern (hummus to falafel), Italian (branzino ai ferri to the use of olive oils), to Indian (chana masala to aloo gobi). Also, avoid the Americanized versions like the Chinese and Japanese variants which become sweeter, bathed in more sauces, and use fewer vegetables/varieties of ingredients.
The cuisines of the world date back centuries (unlike our McRib that only goes back to 1981… Murica), so you can chill with focusing on the pretentious AF buzzwords dictated by opportunistic American food producers who are now defining our roughly 250+ year old food culture.