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Diets of the World: The Japanese Diet

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Soy good. When consumed in moderation, natural soy products like tofu and edamame beans are a great protein alternative to red meat because they have little or no saturated fat, says Moriyama. Japanese meals often include more than one soy-based dish, like miso soup (miso is fermented soy beans) and chunks of tofu.

Delicious desserts. A typical Japanese dessert is an assortment of seasonal fruits, peeled, sliced, and arranged on a pretty plate, Moriyama says. People do enjoy Western desserts like ice cream and cakes, but they're usually offered in smaller portions and subtler flavors compared to the West. A cup of Japanese green tea is the perfect end to any meal.

Healthy options. It only takes a few small changes to make the Japanese diet even healthier. The first requires swapping the ubiquitous white rice for brown. Japan's original ancient power food, brown rice is a great whole-grain, high-fiber source of "good carbs," Moriyama says. The second change involves reducing sodium intake, which is much too high in the Japanese diet because of the large amounts of soy sauce and pickled foods. When available, choose the lower-sodium varieties of miso, soy sauce and teriyaki sauce, Moriyama says, -- and even then, you should use them in small amounts. On a piece of sushi for example, just a drop or two of lower-sodium soy sauce is all you need.

Beautiful food. Bursting with beauty, taste, and health benefits, the Japanese diet has something to offer anyone who wants to live longer, slimmer, and healthier. Experiment with fish, rice, or vegetables served on your most delicate dishes, and reap the benefits for yourself -- chopsticks not required.

Japanese Recipes

Kinpira (Burdock and Carrot)

Serves 4

Kinpira is one of the classic Japanese home-cooked dishes, featuring two great root vegetables, burdock and carrots. In this sauteed dish the burdock combines beautifully with the sweet carrots, red peppers and roasted sesame seeds. Crunchy, soft, sweet and hot, no wonder this Japanese recipe is a popular winter dish in Japan.

Burdock, or gobo, is a fiber-rich Japanese root vegetable with a delectable earthiness. Look for burdock at Japanese markets or gourmet supermarkets.

1 medium (8 ounce) burdock root

1 tablespoon canola oil or rice bran oil

2 dried Japanese (or Thai chili, Santaka or Szechuan) red peppers

1 cup carrot, cut into matchstick-sized slivers

1 tablespoon sake (rice wine)

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons mirin (a cooking wine made from glutenous rice)

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon toasted and ground sesame seeds

1. Scrub the exterior of the burdock root with a vegetable brush to remove excess dirt and the skin. Cut the burdock root into 2½ to 3-inch-long matchsticks, and rinse quickly under cold water. You will have approximately 2 cups of burdock root matchsticks.

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