Japan contains the longest living people. The greatest number of one-hundred year old people live on the Japanese island, Okinawa. Its inhabitants very seldom suffer from diseases common in the Western hemisphere e.g. cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, and cancer.
The Japanese diet is mostly based on vegetables, whole-grain products (including brown rice), seaweeds (Wakame and Kombu), as well as seafood, fish, and only tiny amounts of meat. They traditionally drink green tea after a meal. The Japanese diet is moderately calorific, but due to the large number of vegetables, seaweeds and whole-grain products consumed, the Japanese diet provides all the necessary nutrients.
Japanese cuisine could not have existed if not for the seaweeds known and used by the Japanese people for ages. Frequently consumed seaweeds include: Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida), Nori (Pyropia tenera, Pyropia yezoensis) or Kombu (Laminaria japonica). The most common seaweed in Japan, Wakame, belongs to the brown seaweed family. These seaweeds can typically be found at a depth of several meters under water on solid substrates and can reach a height of up to 3 meters. Originally only found on the coasts of Japan, China, and Korea, nowadays, Wakame can also be found in the waters of France, Great Britain, and Holland. Wakame seaweeds are currently cultivated on a large scale. Seaweed farms form dense Wakame clusters and can be harvested from July until January. These algae are available for sale in dried form or in special brine. In Japanese stores, they are even offered in chip form of various flavours. Wakame seaweeds taste slightly sweet. They are often added to soups (particularly to the traditional Miso-shiru soup) and appetizers or served separately as salads. They are valued not only for their distinctive taste, but mostly for their low calorific value. Wakame seaweeds are rich in minerals and vitamins as well as 1-MNA (more).
The second plant of crucial importance in the Japanese diet is green tea. Although, it originates from China, most of us associate it with Japan. Drinking green tea has been a part of Japanese culture for ages. For the Japanese people, green tea is not only a tasty and refreshing drink, but also a source of physical and spiritual fitness. Drunken for centuries, green tea became an intrinsic part of Japanese cuisine and culture. Nowadays, we know of many types of green tea, varying in scent, colour, and taste, depending on the way it is harvested, processed and the region where it is cultivated. When harvested, green tea leaves are subjected to steam to prevent fermentation which helps preserve the distinctive qualities of green tea. Traditionally, the leaves are pressed into cube form or grated into a fine powder. Dried green tea leaves contain large quantities of polyphenols as well as proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. Green tea also contains 1-MNA (read more). The Japanese people have always valued the beneficial properties of green tea. Nowadays drawing on this tradition, we discover its beneficial influence on our health. Scientists continue to study the influence of green tea consumption by the Japanese people and other Asian people on their health and their risk of diseases common in the Western hemisphere.