I’m a Nutritionist from Japan, Home of the World’s Longest Livers – 5 Longevity Foods We Eat Every Day
I grew up in Japan, where I was taught from a young age to think of food as medicine. My grandmother is 92, and she also believes in eating the right foods for as long as she can.
Japan is home to some of the oldest people in the world: There are now 90,526 centenarians, or people aged 100 and over. That’s more than five times what it was two decades ago, according to a 2022 report from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
And the small, remote Japanese island of Okinawa has been marked as the highest centenarian in the world.
As a nutritionist who follows a traditional Japanese diet, here are five foods that my family and I eat every day to stay healthy and live longer:
1. Japanese sweet potato
2. Miso juice
The Japanese diet includes a variety of dishes that contain fermented foods, and miso soup is highly regarded. Miso is a paste made from soybeans and fermented grains.
The probiotics, live bacteria or yeast in fermented foods can help balance our gut health and boost the immune system.
A study found that men and women who ate the most fermented soy (such as miso, tofu and tempeh) had a 10% lower chance of dying early – from all causes – than those who rarely ate these foods.
3. Daikon radishes
Root vegetables are popular in Japanese cooking and provide a number of unique health benefits.
Daikon radishes are known to help prevent colds and strengthen the immune system. One radish contains 124% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
Other healthy root vegetables (which may be easier to find in US grocery stores) include carrots, beets, parsnips and turnips.
Seaweed is rich in important minerals such as iron, calcium, folate and magnesium.
Eating it every day helps add fiber to my diet. Adequate intake of fiber has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
Seaweed also contains antioxidants such as fucoxanthin and fucoidan, which have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and anti-cancer properties.
I always include some protein in my daily diet, especially fatty fish like salmon and tuna. The omega-3 fat in fish can help lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, and reduce inflammation.
In Japan, we often say “itadakimasu,” which translates to “I humbly receive,” before food to show our appreciation for the animals and farmers. I believe that this practice of mindful eating contributes to our health and quality of life.
Asako Miyashita, MS, RDN, CDN, is a certified dietitian and nutritionist, with 20 years of experience in lifelong research. Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, she uses Western and Eastern perspectives in her work to improve the health of her clients. She has been a guest lecturer at several universities and organizations, including the American Japanese Medical Association. Follow her on Instagram @miasako.